Election day is not a holiday in the US, and employers are not required by federal law to give employees time off to vote, though many states do grant employees the right to take time out of their workday (with no pay penalty) to perform their civic duty if they don’t have free time while polls are open. Still, this state of affairs means that a substantial number of eligible voters, particularly hourly wage-earners with inflexible schedules who fear losing pay or getting fired if they leave work to vote, are effectively disenfranchised. As another complication, many schools are also polling sites and may close on election day, putting working parents in a childcare bind.
This year, nearly 300 tech companies are banding together and giving their employees election day off, in the hopes of starting a trend and lending support to the movement to make election day a national holiday, Brian Fung reports at the Washington Post:
In what may be the most coordinated effort yet by tech companies to change a downward trend in U.S. voting behavior, some industry officials say they hope their stance on Election Day will spur other businesses — and maybe even the federal government — to follow suit.
“It creates pressure across the board for more companies to do that in places where their employees maybe aren’t as likely to vote,” said Jim Pugh, founder of the political data firm ShareProgress, which has endorsed the policy. “The more we can have this be a norm within the corporate space, the more it’s going to push good civic corporate behavior.”
The idea, proponents say, is to help compensate workers for the income they may give up by going to the polls (instead of going to work). The current list includes mainly smaller companies, not all headquartered in the Bay Area. But it also features household names such as Spotify, About.com and the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia. … As of Monday, 277 companies had been added to the spreadsheet.
This decision isn’t likely to have much effect on the electorate in November, political scientists tell Fung, as the mostly salaried employees of these companies aren’t the demographic that’s not showing up to vote because of work. On the other hand, it signals to employees and customers that they value civic engagement and expanding the franchise, so as with any kind of corporate activism, there may be a business angle to this as well.