These companies are giving employees Election Day off to vote. Will it help turnout?
On Nov. 6, every employee at Blue Point Brewing Co. will have the day off so they can vote in the midterm elections. This is the first year president Jenna Lally has instituted the company-wide holiday, and it’s one she intends to keep every Election Day moving forward.
“My father worked two jobs and he was getting his [graduate] degree in the evening, and he would often talk about the difficult time he had voting,” Lally said in a phone interview. “We have a lot of hourly employees at Blue Point that work two jobs, and now more than ever it’s really important that people can make the time to vote.”
While polling locations often open early and close late to accommodate a variety of working hours, more than 60% of voting-eligible Americans did not vote in the 2014 midterm elections. More than half of those who didn’t vote cited scheduling conflicts with work or school as the reason why, Colette Kessler, director of partnerships at Vote.org, said in a phone interview.
“When it comes to other democracies, the U.S. ranks quite low in terms of voter turnout,” Kessler said, explaining that since there’s no “federal protection” around voting leave, every state has its own policy.
In Nebraska, for example, time off is not required if the employee has two consecutive non-work hours available when the polls are open. The policy overlooks people who have long commutes or those in charge of dropping off or picking up their kids at school, Kessler said.
“We’re really not making it very easy for [these] folks to practice their civic duty,” she added.
While Blue Point Brewing Co. employs just 93 people, the company joins a long list of employers who’ve either made Election Day a company-wide holiday or have given employees paid time off to vote. The list of known companies, which Kessler said is growing every day, is nearing 250 and includes businesses like Lyft, Pinterest and Patagonia. Cava, a national restaurant chain, is offering hourly employees two hours of paid leave for voting.
“That’s [an] immediate impact on those thousands of employees,” Kessler said, noting that not every company has the ability or resources to give employees employees a full day off. “We know this is going to be a very long campaign and we want to give people impactful ways to say ‘yes.’”
Kessler said this is an exciting opportunity for companies to respond to a real need in a bipartisan way.
“They’re able to do it in a way that’s celebratory instead of the sometimes doom-and-gloom tone around our political culture, and I think that gives them a lot of positive reinforcement stepping in,” she said.
Blue Point Brewing has fully embraced the marketing opportunity. The brand launched a “Voter’s Day Off” beer to commemorate the day and will offer free pints at its tasting room on Election Day to patrons sporting “I Voted” stickers.
“We’re going to make this beer every year until the message is finally heeded,” Lally said. All proceeds of the beer will be donated to Rock the Vote; Blue Point is also collecting signatures to send to Congress in support of making Election Day a federal holiday.
Ultimately, the goal of this growing movement is to change what Election Day feels like culturally, Kessler said.
“When we give the full day off, we’re saying, ‘This is important, this is something that is deeply valuable and we’re prioritizing it,’” she added. “At the end of the day, we’d like to see the same patriotism we bring to July 4 brought to Election Day.”