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Freedom to cast a ballot and vote in government elections is the cornerstone of our democratic society. This duty is a hard-won right and a privilege that too often goes unclaimed in America. With the current national conversation about social justice and racial equity, along with concerns of voter safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses must support democracy and voting accessibility for their workforce. A healthy business and country depend on equity and civic engagement.
Many businesses are posting statements explaining their care and concern for employees, their support of Black, indigenous, and people of color communities, as well as compassion for those impacted by COVID-19. These companies can extend that care from words into actions by educating their staff, supporting mail in and early voting options and providing paid time off to vote. Employees should not have to choose between a paycheck and their voice, as expressed through their ballot. Businesses often focus on corporate social responsibility while neglecting corporate civic responsibility, which is necessary to feel invested in the democratic process.
At Legacy Vacation Resorts (LVR), Salt Palm Development (SPD), and Florida for Good (FFG), it is critical that our employees can vote in a safe and secure manner. Based on their unique personal circumstances, they can choose between mail in voting and in-person voting (early or regular). For those with health concerns during a pandemic, child care or other obstacles, mail in voting is a good option. This voting method has been legal in Florida for decades and it is the preferred personal voting method of the current President of the United States. However, for those that prefer in-person voting, as I do, they are given paid time off to vote through early voting or on Election Day. Early voting offers faster lines, smaller crowds and will help reduce wait times for others on Election Day.
We are participating in a few initiatives that help support elections and ensure employees have the time and resources they need to cast their ballot. Time To Vote is a nonpartisan coalition of US companies representing 2.7 million workers to address voting barriers and increase voter participation. This business-led initiative is unaffiliated with any one specific NGO or other independent party, non-prescriptive and completely free to join for any company interested. It shows a commitment through employee accommodations and dedicated time off to vote. We have also joined forces with Business for America (BFA), a 501c3/c4 which has mobilized more than 200 companies, business groups and executives across the country to sign a letter to Congress. State and local governments and agencies need sufficient funding to hold safe and accessible elections in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and potential social unrest.
Our participation in these efforts has translated into a few initiatives. First, we encouraged our employees to register to vote via a motivational contest. Next, we created an employee educational program that shows how voting can shape the world they wish to see, not just in the presidential elections, but local and state as well. Now, we are offering assistance with mail in ballots for employees who need it and providing paid time off for those who wish to vote in person.
Securing the means to safe voting and providing time to do so by employers is critical. Our government cannot reflect the will of its people when business policies, practices and norms interfere. The call has never been greater for business leaders to show their capacity for humanity and proactively engage their employees in the voting process. If you are an employee, insist that your employer supports the Time to Vote initiative, vote early and in person if possible and use vote-by-mail as an alternative. If you are an employer, go to Business for America’s website, sign their letter to Congress, and show that you value your employees by supporting their participation at the ballot box.
Jared Meyers is chairman, Salt Palm Development, and the founder of Florida for Good.