For years, many American companies — whether legally obligated or not — have provided their employees with some form of leniency when it comes to clocking in on Election Day. (Some states have time-off vote laws.)
The goal is to ensure that every eligible voter is afforded the opportunity to fulfill his/her civic duty with little to no avoidable barriers.
While a two-hour block has long been the standard time allowance offered to workers, this time around, several corporations, advocacy groups as well as a new campaign, Take Off Election Day, are arguing that Election Day should be regarded as an unofficial holiday during which businesses — large and small — completely shut their doors.
Outdoor retailer Patagonia is the latest to join the wave, which has been championed by predominantly tech-focused firms. On Friday, the environmentally friendly company announced that it would close all of its stores as well as its headquarters, distribution center and customer service center on Election Day to encourage customers, employees and citizens to head to the polls.
Supporters of the movement say that while an extended lunch hour would make it more feasible for many Americans to vote on Election Day, more Americans would march to the polls and also become more engaged in the political process if they had the day off altogether. Further, given the lengthy lines at many polling stations as well as heavy street traffic and other obstacles that can interfere with one’s ability to vote in a timely manner, for many would-be voters, two hours is hardly enough time.
“My personal opinion is that Election Day should be a national holiday to encourage more people to vote and to be more involved in the electoral process,” explained Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst with The NPD Group.
When it comes to retail employees specifically, B. Riley & Co. LLC industry analyst Jeff Van Sinderen said he believes that it would make more sense for stores to have limited Election Day hours — perhaps closing early to enable their employees to vote.
“I think closing early makes sense in that business will be slow and it encourages employees to vote, as well as eliminating a potential distraction — shopping — for consumers,” explained Van Sinderen. “Closing early also could benefit the retailers’ expenses, while encouraging everyone to vote.”
Van Sinderen and Powell agree that an election year is always a tough one for retail either way.
“I think that retail has already been impacted by consumers being distracted by the election and frankly, I doubt that retailers will be especially busy on election day anyway, even if just because people are watching the poll results,” Van Sinderen noted.
From a marketing perspective, perhaps jumping behind civic cause — such as encouraging voting and participation in political advocacy — could bode well for companies in the long run.
For its part, Patagonia is also encouraging employees and customers to use Nov. 8 as a day to support local environmental issues and engage in civil society.