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One of the most important decisions you'll make between now and Nov. 3 (besides the whole "which candidate you'll vote for" thing) is how to cast your ballot. While many Americans are opting to participate in mail-in voting this year, some may live in states that require an excuse, beyond safety concerns about the coronavirus, to obtain their absentee ballot. And while voting by mail is absolutely safe, some people may still just prefer to vote in person. Regardless of your plan, dropping off your ballot or waiting in line at your local polling place will present more obstacles this year than ever before. (Add it to our 2020 tab).
While voting line wait times have always been unpredictable and often tedious, social distancing requirements, poll worker shortages, changes to polling locations, and new (or minimal) dropbox options will likely make participation in our nation's most important civic duty a very lengthy process. Not to mention the additional time required for those who need to account for child care, transportation, disability, and securing time off of work.
Though I can't wave a magic wand and make Election Day a national holiday (even though it should be, and is in many other democracies around the world), I can provide some tips to help you get Election Day off.
1. Educate yourself on your state's laws
Currently, there are no federal laws that require businesses to give you time off to vote, and while most states have laws that require your employer to provide time to visit your local polling location, only "23 states require some form of paid time off." You can check your state's laws regarding time off to vote by using this nifty tool from Workplace Fairness.
2. Familiarize yourself with your company's policies
Regardless of state statutes, some organizations have independently joined the movement to make Election Day a company-wide holiday, while some are taking the initiative to institute voter-friendly policies like extended PTO and establishing Nov. 3 as a "no meetings" day. If your company has not yet joined the movement to make Election Day a holiday — a policy that a majority of Republicans and Democrats alike support, might I add — you can suggest their participation, or simply provide resources from ElectionDay.org.
Asking your manager or HR department about your company's time-off policy for voting is important even if they don't want to join the ElectionDay.org movement, since only a few states require employers to "post anything about how to take advantage of the legal right to time off to vote." Some states only require your employer to give you time off if you won't have the time to vote at the beginning or end of your shift, and some allow your employer to "dock your pay for the hours off," so keeping any proof you voted may be critical.
Either way, asking about your employer's time-off policy for voting can open up an important dialogue around Election Day procedures that could impact the entire company. Imagine if you were the hero responsible for making Election Day a company-wide holiday at your workplace!
3. Create a clear and realistic plan
Once you're well-versed in your state's laws and company's policies, you can devise an educated Election Day plan that accounts for any restrictions or requirements that may cramp your style. Your manager will likely feel as though you've thought about this and are taking the onus off of them, since you've already devised the perfect plan. Not to mention, studies show that people who create a voting plan are more likely to follow through with it and vote. So set aside some time in your calendar and stick to it!
4. Invite your manager to collaborate and state your case
Instead of "telling" your manager how this is all going to go down, invite them to collaborate! Some things to mention in your game plan: how you'll account for any tasks that need to be completed during that time period (i.e. coverage or executing them ahead of time), how and why your time off will not burden your team, and how you'll receive any important meeting notes from the day. Maybe they'll finally realize those meetings could have been an email in the first place . . . win-win!
Ask for their input on your Election Day plan, and if they have any insight on how you both can work together to make it as efficient and foolproof as possible. If the candidates aren't foolproof, at the very least your Election Day strategy should be! Again, this discussion around why time off for voting is important and how your company can support you in fulfilling your civic duty will have ripple effects for the organization at large.
5. Lead with positivity!
When you do speak to your manager, be honest about why you want to take Election Day off. Start the conversation with positivity, instead of thinking about all of the reasons your boss might say "no." Lead with all of the reasons why voting is important and how taking the day off will not only benefit you, but the entire company! Employees who are given time off to vote reportedly "show significantly more support for their firms' values, feel prouder of the companies they work for, and are more likely to recommend their companies as good places to work than those who are not given the flexibility to vote." Furthermore, it's actually good for business! According to a 2019 Harvard Kennedy School study, organizations that facilitate and celebrate civic engagement were more likely to meet consumer expectations, raise brand awareness, and increase employee satisfaction. So really, it's in their best interest to give you Election Day off.
Talk about a win for you AND for democracy.
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