When people think of voting, they often think of the presidential election. However, midterms and local elections happen more frequently, and these races are often just as important.
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In 2016, 61.4% of voting-age Americans reported voting — not much of a change from the 61.8% who reported voting in 2012, according to Census.gov. The numbers are even lower for midterms. NPR reported that only about four in 10 eligible adults cast a ballot in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections.
To be sure, there are many possible reasons for the low turnout. But one is that voting can often mean taking time away from work, which many people may be reluctant to do.
How to Encourage Employees to Vote
Part of being a great place to work is giving people the space to do the things that matter to them. Exercising the right to vote matters to pretty much everyone!
So how can you create a workplace environment that encourages employees to register to vote (if they haven’t already), and get to the polls on election day? We have a few ideas.
Communicate How to Register
You likely know plenty of people who haven’t yet registered to vote, and some of them might even be your coworkers and employees.
A lot of people don’t know where to start when it comes to voter registration. USA.gov offers resources on voting rules in every state, voter eligibility, local requirements, and voter registration.
Make this kind of information available to your team. You can do this by sending out a company-wide email, talking about it at an all-hands meeting, or posting information around the office.
Inform on Vital Dates
Share voter registration dates with your employees. States have different laws around voter registration dates, but you can find a list of dates and deadlines here.
If an election is upcoming, it’s an especially good time to inform employees of this info. After all, they’ll want to register to vote in time to participate in the election.
Share Voter Law Information
Did you know that many state voting laws require employers to provide voting leave? It’s a good idea to review a list of the states with voting leave laws for private employers and summarized key provisions, like this one. This chart includes:
Amount of leave required, and exceptions
Notice required by employee
Whether time off must be paid
Whether proof of voting is required
Public employers may have different requirements for allowing employees time off to vote.
Give Time Off
You can always give your employes more time off to vote than is required under applicable law. Even in states where there is no specific voting leave law, as an employer, you have the option to set a company-wide policy giving employees time off to vote.
There are plenty of ways you can design a voting leave policy for your team. For instance, some companies may opt to give their employees the entire day off to vote on election day. It's a good practice to allow employees up to two hours of paid time off to vote if there is insufficient time for the employee to vote outside of working hours.
Having a voting leave policy in place, and making employees aware of it, shows that you as an employer respect and encourage voting. When employees feel encouraged to vote, they’re more likely to actually do it.
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It probably goes without saying, but remember that it’s not ethical to bring your personal political leanings to the office or encourage your employees to vote for a certain party or candidate. Offer people the opportunity to vote or register to vote, but also respect their political opinions and maintain a neutral stance as a business leader.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.