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November 2, 2016 / Molly Moseley

Voting and employees: How employers help to smooth the path to the polls

vote_500x279Whether you want to “make America great again,” you believe we are “stronger together,” or you’re backing one of the third-party options, you’ll join millions of people making their journey to the polls on November 8.

If you work, though, finding time to vote can be difficult. That can mean getting up at the crack of dawn to vote before work, skipping out during your lunch break in hopes lines aren’t too long, or potentially waiting for hours at poll stations in the evening after work.

This stress makes it incredibly hard for employees to do their civic duty. Unfortunately, if the process becomes too cumbersome or time-consuming, some people may skip the polls altogether.

Due to these reasons and more, legislative efforts have been aimed at making Election Day a national holiday. While at face value this may seem like a great idea, the movement has seen a fair amount of backlash. Think about it: just like any other federal holiday, banks, colleges and some big businesses may shut down. Other organizations, however, would stay open, such as retailers, restaurants, health-care groups and small businesses. These employees wouldn’t necessarily get time off to vote, plus they’d be busier due to the flood of additional customers who do have the day off.

Fortunately, there is an easy solution: Employers can help employees make it to the polls no matter where they live.

The first step is to understand each state’s laws about voting. Some state’s require employers to provide paid time off to employees so they can vote. Some states allow time off to vote, but employees must use PTO. Others have no laws on the books regarding this subject.

No matter which laws apply to employers, it’s important to be accommodating to employees who need to vote. Not only does this show that the employer truly cares, but it also encourages higher voter turnout in the local communities. Here are four smart ideas:

Voluntary time off
According to The Wall Street Journal, some companies are aiding the democratic processes by voluntarily closing the office and providing paid time off to employees. Consider joining them by offering employees a full or half-day off.

Late start or early release
Consider delaying start of business or close of business by two hours. Have employees set their out-of-office messages to reflect these details.

Make up time
Allow employees the option to take off as much time as they need to vote as long as they make up that time within a reasonable period, such as a week.

Work from home
If your business has the capability for remote working, declare a work-from-home day for the entire office. This eliminates commuting time and allows people to be closer to their local polling station.

Additionally, consider fun ways to encourage voting. (Just make sure you never promote a certain candidate or political party.) For example, if you collect a certain number of “I voted” stickers, the company could cater lunch or sponsor an outing for employees.

See you at the polls!