Would a paid day off make it easier to vote? State employees have this benefit on Election Day — but if you work for a private company, it’s not so easy. Day Off, Go Vote is starting a movement to level the field.
“The run-of-the-mill CEO doesn’t care what David and Channing at Day Off, Go Vote have to say, but if we can get the attention of their employees — the people they respect, have made statements of support for, and who they want to participate in elections — they’ll be able to hold these leaders accountable,” said Channing Spencer at the D.C.-based initiative Day Off, Go Vote.
Started by Richmond native Channing Spencer and partner David Bery, the “Day Off, Go Vote” initiative aims to work with businesses, giving employees paid time off to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
“Asking for the day off to vote is not something that you should be scared of, or threatened by,” said Bery. “A lot of these large corporations keep getting wealthier and wealthier; they can sacrifice one day for their employees to have, specifically, a paid day off to go vote.”
The organization recognizes barriers to voting for low-income communities. Without paid time off, many voters are unable to make it to the polls and cast their ballot — and overall voter turnout suffers because of it.
“We believe that a day off to vote is a big part of it,” Spencer said. “Especially for marginalized communities, who have to choose between a paycheck and a vote, or picking up their children from childcare and voting.”
Claire Gastañaga, Executive Director at the ACLU of Virginia, said that up until the last legislative session, Virginia was the second-hardest state in the nation to vote in.
“We had established all kinds of barriers that are now starting to be broken down,” Gastañaga said, “by establishing a holiday for voting, setting up same-day registration, by 2022 changing voter ID requirements, and changing the absentee voting requirements.”
Due to these restrictions, some voters are more privileged than others, and therefore more able to cast their vote, Gastañaga said.
Day Off, Go Vote aims to work with businesses instead of pushing legislative policies to aid voters. They chose this model because they feel the government has already failed citizens in creating accessibility to polls.
“There are bills across the country — that haven’t gone anywhere — that would propose a federal day off,” said Spencer. “We believe that change in this country happens very incrementally. Look at healthcare: it happens in pieces, not all at once. People’s most accessible points of change are those who are literally handing them a paycheck, and it’s unfortunate that big corporations are handing paychecks to our legislators.”
If they can initiate a movement for a paid holiday on Election Day, the organizers believe a domino effect will unfold as companies see their peers allowing employees to go to the polls.
As the coronavirus pandemic still lingers on, Spencer said that Day Off, Go Vote is more important than ever.
“The new big factor is that there’s literally a pandemic happening,” he said. “If people have to go to work, we’re going to see crowds in the ‘before and after work’ hours. In an environment where polling locations are closing by the thousands every year, this is unacceptable when there’s a deadly disease going around.”
“As of November, Election Day will be a state holiday,” Gastañaga said. “Every state employee, and I hope local employees, will have a paid day off. Among other things, I’m hoping it will expand the number of volunteers at polling locations, too.”
This is why Day Off, Go Vote was founded. Although Election Day will be a state holiday in Virginia, it’s not enough for every voter.
Whether businesses are small and local or large and national, the organizers hope they’ll allow their employees a day to cast a vote (or, at the very least, a few hours and some extra wiggle room). Day Off, Go Vote hopes increasing voter turnout will bring positive change not only in the Commonwealth, but across the nation.
The 2020 Election will take place on November 3. To support the movement and help inform businesses about Day Off, Go Vote, follow the organization on Instagram and Twitter. Most importantly, register to vote or update your registration before Tuesday, October 13, and cast your ballot this November.
Top Image via Day Off, Go Vote