Would making Election Day a holiday encourage more Americans to vote?
A group of more than 300 companies thinks so, and have pledged to give their employees time off on Nov. 8 to cast their ballots.
Hunter Walk, a partner in venture capital firm Homebrew, launched “The Take Election Day Off” movement this summer on Twitter to combat voter cynicism Since then, it has attracted high-profile startups such as music service Spotify, payments processor Square and dating app Tinder, according to the website Take Election Day Off, among other participating employers.
Patagonia is going a step further by shuttering the outdoor apparel and gear maker’s corporate headquarters in Ventura, Calif., and its Reno, Nevada-based distribution and customer service office on Nov. 8, with workers getting paid for the day.
“During a time of catastrophic environmental crisis, when America needs strong leadership to confront the fundamental threat of climate change, voter turnout threatens to reach historic lows as people are turned off by the ugliness of politics,” said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario in a statement.
Participating in U.S. elections is dismal compared with that in other industrialized countries. About 54 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential contest between Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, according to the Pew Research Center. By comparison, countries such as Sweden, Turkey and Belgium typically see turnout of at least 80 percent in national elections.
In the U.S., laws vary widely by state regarding to what extent employers must accommodate workers to exercise their right to vote. About 19 states require that workers be paid when they take time out to vote, while others don’t. According to Edward Yost, a spokesman for the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), most businesses are willing to let workers leave early or come in late so they can make it to the polls.
A twist this year is the acrimony spilling over from the presidential contest into the workplace. According to an SHRM survey, 52 percent of organizations reported increased “political volatility” in 2016 compared with previous presidential campaigns, leading to increased tension, hostility and arguments among employees.
“Unfortunately, we are bombarded by he election] 24-7 at this point from every source possible. ... It’s hard for someone to turn it off when they walk into the workplace,” Yost said.