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Businesses can increase voter participation

More than 2,000 businesses, including a number of large enterprises … have joined a movement called “Time to Vote” … encouraging employees to vote through paid time off, a no meetings workday and resources for mail-in ballots and early voting.

Three voters early voting on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan

Here’s a political reality – despite the fact the Minnesota frequently leads the nation in voter turnout, far too many people still don’t vote. We believe that businesses can play a powerful role in encouraging everyone to make their voice heard this election year. Minnesota businesses, like Target, have shown how companies can increase voter participation in a nonpartisan way.

In the midterm election four years ago, 64% of eligible voters cast a ballot in Minnesota. That was number one in the country. But it still means that more than 36% of our neighbors who could vote, didn’t.

Two reasons given by many people for not voting is that they don’t have time or cannot get to the polls. On Election Day, too many Americans face a time crunch as well as conflicting loyalties: to their job or to their democracy.

Businesses can help. For example, more than 2,000 businesses, including a number of large enterprises such as Target, Best Buy, Ecolab, Wells Fargo and C.H. Robinson, have joined a movement called “Time to Vote.” These companies have committed to encouraging their employees to vote through programs such as paid time off, a no meetings workday and resources for mail-in ballots and early voting.

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In Minnesota, the good news is that every employee who is eligible to vote in an election has the right to be absent from work for the time necessary to travel to the employee’s polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work without penalty or deduction from salary or wages. It is important for all business leaders to uphold both the spirit and the letter of that law and let your employees know they can legally take the time to vote.

There are some great examples of businesses in Minneapolis who are helping get the word out. Devil’s Advocate in downtown Minneapolis provides information about how to vote with every takeout and delivery order from their restaurant. Northeast Minneapolis’ 56 Brewing has created “VOTE!” hazy IPA with a QR code on every can that directs people to voting information. Target encourages civic participation year round. Through Citizens@Target — a team member network encouraging active participation in democracy — Target has created a space for team members to learn about and discuss issues and access resources on voting and the civic process.

Another way companies can support voting is to help provide transportation to the polls at reduced rates or for free. Through its LyftUp voting access program, Lyft provides access to discounted rides on Election Day and donates free or heavily discounted rides to nonprofit partners. On Election Day, Target will provide free rides to the polls to all team members.

Laysha Ward
Laysha Ward
We also encourage employers to have employees check their voter registration status. By checking in advance, voters can ensure they are ready to vote – or prepare to bring the necessary documents to register on Election Day. You can check your status online here. If your business sends a regular newsletter to employees, use that space to encourage your employees to confirm they’re registered to vote.

Businesses are also participating in the non-partisan Mpls Votes effort, which is helping coordinate employer and student-led voting drives. Voters can check out their sample ballot and make a plan to vote at mplsvotes2022.com.

Jonathan Weinhagen
Jonathan Weinhagen
Voting is the greatest power we have in society. As you think about schools, taxes, public safety, the environment, health care, human rights and more, the outcome of the races on Nov. 8 matter. If you’re one of the more than 60% of eligible voters who regularly vote in Minnesota’s midterm election, thank you. If you’re one of the approximately 40% who sit on the sidelines, we implore you to make a plan and vote this year. Your voice matters, and we encourage employers to help ensure it is heard.

Laysha Ward is executive vice president and chief external engagement officer at Target, where she has more than 30 years of leadership experience. Jonathan Weinhagen is president & CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber and is online at @jweinhagen and @MplsChamber.