On Nov. 6, Americans will vote in one of the most important elections in our lifetime. Companies and their employees have a significant stake in the outcome. But too many people still say they don’t vote because they are too busy or their schedule won’t allow it.
We’ve seen this before. In November 2016, about 40% of eligible voters did not cast a ballot. Some made a conscious decision not to go to the polls on Election Day. But many of these voters simply didn’t have a choice. Around half of states do not require employers to give employees paid leave to vote. And more than a third of states don’t require employers to allow their employees to take unpaid leave to vote.
In election after election, American workers are forced to choose between their paycheck and their vote. This is simply unacceptable in the world’s greatest democracy.
Thankfully, many American companies agree. That’s why dozens of employers are already leading the way as part of the Time to Vote campaign. Companies like Levi Strauss, New Belgium, and Patagonia are offering paid time off, while businesses like Lyft are offering free and discounted rides to the polls. We need more businesses, large and small, to follow their lead.
At the Democratic National Committee, the senior staff and officers have been working to reach out to more executives, urging them to join the cause and take steps to make sure their employees have the time and resources to participate in our democracy.
By providing voting leave, companies don’t just demonstrate a commitment to their workers—they show their commitment to the health of our democracy. Businesses also benefit when their employees’ voices are heard.
Democratic lawmakers in Congress and across the country have been fighting to make voting easier. But Republican leaders continue to block any legislation that would help more people get to the polls, including the Time Off to Vote Act, which would give voters at least two hours of paid leave to vote in federal elections.
Voter suppression has been part of the Republican playbook for decades, because they know that the only way they can win elections is if fewer people vote. “I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich, a godfather of the modern conservative movement, admitted to a conference of conservative activists in 1980. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
In the absence of effective Republican leadership in Congress, companies need to take the initiative. This is not about partisanship—it’s about patriotism. It’s about making sure that every eligible voter can exercise their constitutional right at the ballot box. As the CEO of Sonos said recently, “As employers, it is our duty to society to empower those who work for us to use their voices at the polls.”
Our democracy works best when more people participate, not fewer. Let’s make sure everyone can make their voice heard on Election Day.
Matt Cartwright is a congressman from Pennsylvania’s 17th district. Tom Perez is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a former secretary of labor.