U.S. companies are making the midterm elections a business priority. Lyft, Patagonia, Walmart, and more than 100 other companies are trying to increase voter turnout in the upcoming midterm elections through a new nonpartisan campaign dubbed Time to Vote. The collective effort--which urges other businesses to join--is designed to combat historically low voter turnout. Only 36.6 percent of eligible Americans voted in the midterm elections in 2014, according to data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.
Participating companies commit to encourage employees and customers to exercise their right to vote in a variety of ways. For example, Patagonia will close for business on Election Day for a second time--having previously done so in 2016--and give a paid day off to employees so they can go vote. Lyft will offer free and discounted rides to the polls, inform its customers and workforce about voter registration deadlines, and provide in-office voter registration for its employees. Companies are also encouraging people to vote in other ways, like instituting a day without meetings and providing support for mail-in ballots and early voting.
"Your commitment can be whatever works best for you and for your employees to create a work schedule that allows for voter participation," Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a LinkedIn post announcing the campaign. "I believe this movement is crucial for the future of our democracy." Marcario cited a Pew Research Center study that found many U.S. workers don't vote because of schedule conflicts at work. The Time to Vote campaign came together following Patagonia's decision this summer to give a paid day off to employees on Election Day.
While the campaign's stated goal is "getting more people out to vote," encouraging civic participation can also be good for business. Prioritizing non-work related activities like voting is one way to show employees you respect them, which can help increase employee engagement, according to a Harvard Business Review survey of 20,000 workers. Socially responsible initiatives may also help retain Millennial talent.