Jun 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Protests push more companies to bolster voting efforts

Illustration of a briefcase with an "I voted" sticker on it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Hundreds of companies are vowing to give workers paid time off to vote on Election Day — and some are going a step further, using their technology and resources to help register voters or direct them to polling locations.

Why it matters: More and more businesses have encouraged workers and its customers to vote in recent years, but now — as the country faces a reckoning over longstanding systemic racism — a fresh crop of major employers are introducing new efforts.

Driving the news: In the last week ...

  • Uber announced that election days around the world would be a company holiday for its employees.
  • Best Buy said it would limit store hours on Election Day so each of its roughly 125,000 employees "will have an opportunity to cast a vote in person."
  • Blue Apron announced it will make Election Day a paid day off.
  • &pizza said it's closing stores on Election Day to give employees opportunity to vote.
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a USA Today op-ed that Facebook's 2020 goal is "to help 4 million people register to vote."

The big picture: The protests sweeping the nation around racial inequality have elevated the conversation in America about suppression of black voters. Many corporations are tying their efforts around race to election activism.

  • "Companies realize that taking a stand meaningfully on racial justice also means empowering your voice to vote," Vote.org's Nora Gilbert tells Axios.

Some Election Day announcements from firms came with notices that their employees could take Juneteenth as a paid day off.

  • "I strongly believe that lasting change really happens at the ballot box," CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted on Wednesday.

Yes, but: Even before the protests, corporate activism around voting was rising.

  • Uber and Lyft have previously offered discounted rides to voting locations on election days.
  • Companies like Dropbox and Levi gave employees time during the workday to vote in the midterm election. Snapchat helped register over 450,000 people to vote.
  • Patagonia, which first shut its doors for Election Day in 2016, launched "Time to Vote" in 2018 — an effort to encourage companies to educate workers or make it easier for them to vote. Over 500 companies have signed the pledge for the 2020 election.

Between the lines: Patagonia has been critical of the Trump administration, but Corley Kenna, who runs Patagonia's communications and co-founded "Time to Vote," tells Axios that the "Time to Vote" project is "about voter participation, not advancing one political party or even one issue."

  • Voters cite being "too busy" or a "conflicting schedule" as one of the top reasons why they don't cast ballots, according to the Pew Research Center.
  • The coronavirus further complicates the in-person voting process, as witnessed by people who were delayed in voting in Georgia's primary election last week.
  • Just as companies are being more flexible about giving employees time to vote, early and mail-in voting may become more widely used because of the pandemic.

Reality check: Stepping up efforts for Election Day is the latest move by businesses to address demands that corporate America should be doing more.

  • "It's important that companies are not just preaching about 'get out to vote' for their brand but also getting their own house in order," Gilbert says.

The bottom line: Never before has there been such a powerful push by corporate America to get people to the voting booths.

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