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Companies Step Up By Paying Workers to Vote, Work the Polls

With Election Day looming and widespread uncertainty about what will transpire November 3 amid Covid-19, companies are making it easier for employees to vote and to work at polling stations.

ballot 1294935 640 smallStarbucks, Old Navy, Target and Microsoft are among a growing number of companies that are encouraging their workers and customers to work the polls on Election Day, Vox reports, citing Civic Alliance. That bi-partisan voting group aims to recruit 350,000 poll workers to help fill an expected void by many senior poll workers likely to sit out in November nationwide due to the pandemic.

Even before anyone knew about Covid-19, election officials were contending with fewer people nationwide willing to serve as poll workers—a paid gig—during the contentious 2018 mid-term elections, Pew’s Stateline reported two years ago. Poll workers must be older than 16, but traditionally these jobs have been filled by senior citizens, Vox notes. Almost 70% of states and jurisdictions cited problems recruiting enough staff prior to Covid-19.

Old Navy announced September 1, which is National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, that it would pay its store staff to be poll workers on Election Day. That amounts to 50,000 employees in over 1,000 stores in the U.S. The apparel giant has worked with Civic Alliance as well as Power the Polls to recruit 250,000 new poll workers by November 3.

Target, Warby Parker, and Compass Coffee, a Washington DC-based coffee chain, are giving their workers paid time off to also serve as poll workers. Among the large companies giving their employees time off to vote are Starbucks, Twitter, PayPal, Walmart and Uber. Paid leave ranges from three hours to the entire day off. Furthermore, a record 44% of U.S. employers pledged two years ago to allow their employees paid time off to vote in the 2018 midterm elections, Bloomberg had reported. That was up 7% from 2016.

The role employers play now to ensure their staff can vote on Election Day is all the more crucial with no national standard among the 50 states to ensure everyone can take time off to vote. Only 13 states have made Election Day a paid holiday for state workers, Vox reports. PayPal is giving its employees four hours of paid time to vote on Election Day, and also has encouraged them to volunteer at the polls, Huffington Post reports.

“There’s a recognition that you’ve got to make it easier for people to vote, or at least make sure that they’re not facing an impossible choice,” says Franz Paasche, senior vice president of corporate affairs at PayPal, as quoted in the article. “We want to make sure that we give people the flexibility so that they don’t have to make a choice between being able to earn a paycheck that day or being able to vote.”

Through a corporate effort called Time to Vote, which started just before the 2018 midterm elections, PayPal has joined with what is now more than 700 companies to encourage more than six million workers to take part in the November 3 election.

Some companies are coming up with creative ways that align with their business models to help their customers get to the polls and to be more engaged. Lyft, for example, will give riders free or discounted transport to polling stations. Snapchat registered 450,000 voters via its app two years ago and has focused on educating its mostly young fans about voting issues.

There are a number of ways companies can empower their workers on Election Day and the focus should be on participation, not politics, Nora Gilbert, director of partnerships at Vote.org tells Society for Human Resource Management.

In addition to giving employees paid time off or closing shop on Election Day, companies can disseminate information on how, where, and when to vote, and to help employees register or obtain a ballot online.

Employers can cancel meetings on Election Day, giving staff more time to head to the polls, and allow them to use the company printer for absentee ballot applications, pay for postage and send out email reminders. Companies also can encourage employees to help their neighbors and communities with child and elder care so they can go vote or to offer them rides to the polls.

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