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Giving Your Employees Space to be Active Citizens

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Christina Beckman • Corporate Social Responsibility at Mattress Firm

Every four years in the U.S. we hear the upcoming presidential election is the “most important election of our lifetimes.” In 2020, this happens to be true.

COVID-19’s effect on in-person voting, along with conflicting information surrounding the election process, means the integrity of our 2020 Presidential Election is at stake. There has never been a more critical time for U.S. citizens to exercise their civic duties, nor a more critical time for companies to give employees the time and space to do so.

Leverage your power to strengthen our democracy

Looking back at 2016, a little more than half of registered voters participated in the presidential election, with nearly 2.7 million Americans citing “too busy” or “conflicting schedules” as a reason why they didn’t vote. While Election Day is a holiday or on a weekend in many functioning democracies, here in the U.S. employees often have to choose between voting or working.

As corporate leaders, we can leverage our power to give employees the space, time, and information needed to ensure they actively participate in their civic duty. Aside from it being the right thing to do, it also brings tremendous business value.

Steps to supporting active citizens

Thinking about starting a corporate civic engagement program and don’t know where to begin? Consider these steps and actions. (And remember: there is no one-size fits all approach.)

  1. Keep it nonpartisan.
    • Employees should feel the ultimate goal is strengthening our democracy rather than supporting a specific political party.
  2. Register employees and/or customers.
    • This is the most important step! Consider using Vote.Org, Turbovote, Rock the Vote or Headcount.
    • Consider bringing these efforts externally as well. Do you have a consumer-facing platform or regular newsletters going out to different communities? A short ”register to vote” link can go a long way!
  3. Give employees time off.
    • Establish time-off guidance with your Human Resources and Benefits departments. If an additional Paid Time Off day is off the table for your organization, consider using a floating holiday or a half-day.
    • Already giving U.S. employees time-off to vote? Encourage employees to volunteer civically! We are in dire need of Poll Workers in 2020. Consider giving employees time to attend local demonstrations or protests as well.
  4. Join forces with others.
    • You don’t have to do it alone! Consider joining groups like the Civic Alliance or Time to Vote. These organizations have fantastic resources and networks (at no cost!) if you are committed to civic engagement at your companies.
    • Consider a partnership with organizations like Phone2Action or League of Women Voters (their 411 tool is incredible).
  5. Respond to the 2020 Census.
    • It’s important to mention 2020 is also a Census year. Every ten years, policies, business decisions, budget allocation, and important educational decisions are based on the outcome of the Census. Educating and encouraging your employees in the 2020 Census is critical. Respond to the 2020 Census before the October deadline! 

Other ways to make an impact

Lastly, if you’d like to additionally support organizations on the frontlines, here are some nonpartisan organizations helping to ensure we can all be voters. All of these are 501(c)3 nonprofits, so your donations are fully tax deductible.

  1. Vote Riders. Working to ensure no eligible citizen is denied their right to vote based on I.D. (Legal Name: VoteRiders EIN: 45-5081831)
  2. Vote Latino. Uniting and empowering the Latinx community. (Legal Name: Voto Latino Foundation Inc. EIN: 20-1350252)
  3. Election Protection. Defending the right to vote. (Legal Name: Lawyers Committee For Civil Rights Under Law EIN: 52-0799246)

Finally, if you haven’t yet, register to vote!

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