2020 has been a year of constant change. With election season right around the corner, it’s understandable that millions of people across the country are wondering what, exactly, the process is going to look like, and how it’s going to differ from a typical election year.
How, for example, should someone plan on registering to vote this year if they’ve had to leave their state of residence for COVID-19-related reasons? And what are the implications that the pandemic itself will have upon this year’s electoral process? Should voters be on the lookout for mail-in ballots, or should they mark their calendars to vote in-person on November 3rd?
These are all great questions. And while nobody can claim to have all of the answers at this point, there are some among us who are in a unique position to educate and empower those around us. Employers, in particular, have a rare opportunity right now to provide employees with the tools, information, and resources that they’ll need to navigate the complexities of the 2020 election season.
Here are three separate ways that employers can prepare their teams to vote in the fall of 2020.
Educate Your Team About Voter Registration
Even in pre-COVID times, the voter registration process in the United States was widely considered to be difficult and confusing.
In many countries around the world, voter registration is either automatic or compulsory. Here in the US, however, it takes a bit of extra legwork to become a registered voter (it’s also optional). This is a major reason why many Americans never register to vote.
Lack of communication and education also plays a role. According to a 2017 survey from the Pew Research Center, 62% of unregistered voters reported that they had simply never been asked to register.
That’s a problem, certainly, but it also implies that the simple act of spreading the word about registering to vote has the power to engage your more civically unengaged employees.
As an employer, you can empower your employees to vote in the 2020 elections by distributing a company-wide email covering why, how, when, and where to register. Check out these resources to find some information that you might want to include:
- Need an ID to vote? (Spreadthevote.org)
- Voter Registration Deadlines (Vote.org)
- Register and Vote in Your State (U.S. Election Assistance Commission)
- Voter Registration Deadlines (New York State Board of Elections)
Get to Know Your State’s Voter PTO Laws
Most U.S. states have laws in place that require companies to allow their employees paid time off to vote. These state laws vary according to a number of different factors, including:
- Whether employees are required to provide proof that they voted
- The amount of time off that’s permitted
- Whether or not an employee is required to notify their employer beforehand
In New York, for example, employers are required to allow employees up to two hours of paid time off to vote — but only if that employee doesn’t have enough time to vote outside of their regular working hours. A similar law also applies to employers in California.
Check out this article to learn more about PTO for voting laws in effect in your state.
Share COVID-19-Related Changes and Updates
Social distancing remains public health priority number one, and voting in person may be a concern for you or your employees. Mail-in and absentee voting have both been presented as viable alternatives, but these present certain challenges of their own.
Just like voter registration protocols, the policies surrounding mail-in and absentee voting, such as whether an “excuse” is required to vote in this way, also vary state-by-state. In addition, there have been some much-publicized concerns about the United States Postal Service’s ability to process such huge quantities of mail in such a short period of time.
All of this adds an additional layer of anxiety to an already tense and complicated election season. Luckily, there are tons of resources out there that employers can leverage to help their teams navigate all of the COVID-19-related changes happening in this year’s electoral process.
Here are a few to help get you started:
- Changes to election dates, procedures, and administration in response to COVID-19: This regularly-updated resource from Ballotpedia can help you keep track of important COVID-19-related changes in your state. It provides helpful, bite-sized breakdowns of important updates which you can easily share with your employees to keep everyone informed.
- 2020 Presidential Election Calendar (paywall): The New York Times has organized this resource to provide voters with all of the major state and federal deadlines to be aware of as we head into this year’s election season.
- Voting and COVID-19: This directory from Vote.org contains links to each state’s public health response to the 2020 election.
Clearly, those are some information-dense resources, and you already have enough on your plate as it is. In light of that, you might consider appointing a group of your employees to form a “COVID-19 Voting Response Team” (or something to that effect), whose goal is to track important voting updates and communicate those across your team. That way, you’ll be able to rest assured that your employees are receiving the information they’ll need to be able to vote in November.
Spread the Vote
If there’s one thing that we can say with certainty about the remainder of 2020, it’s that things are going to change in unpredictable ways. As an employer, the best way to motivate your employees to vote is to communicate and update them as much as possible. The tools, resources, and strategies highlighted above are great places to get started.
In particular, Spread the Vote is a great resource for you as well as your employees. Check out their site to help fill in any gaps you might have in your voting knowledge, which will help you provide even better guidance to members of your team who are just getting started.
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.