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Nike and Levi’s Throw Support Behind ‘Time to Vote’ As Election Day Draws Closer

As the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election draws closer, Nike and Levi’s are doing their part to get out the vote.

Nike said yesterday it was linking up with “Time to Vote,” a nonpartisan effort to increase voter participation. The move came as the nation marks the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which was signed on Aug. 6, 1965.

“We believe every voice matters and every vote counts. Regardless of political affiliation, from education and registration to engagement and participation, Nike will work to support [our employees],” said Hilary Krane, Nike Inc. EVP, chief administrative officer and general counsel in a statement. “It feels especially appropriate to make this commitment on the 55th anniversary of the day that our country removed barriers that prevented Black voters from casting their ballots.”

Since voting laws and procedures vary across the country — especially this year when mail-in voting and absentee ballots are expected to play a key role — Nike has made a broad commitment to the cause. “This may include paid time off on Election Day, making Election Day a day without meetings or providing resources for mail-in ballots and early voting,” the company said in the statement.

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More than 600 companies are now involved in the “Time to Vote” initiative, including Levi’s, which was an early supporter. Chip Bergh, the president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., wrote a passionate Op-Ed published on CNN’s website today that called on all CEOS to get on board.

“Even in the best of times, voter turnout in the United States is one of the lowest in the developed world, and it doesn’t help that many Americans struggle every election season to get time off work to vote,” Bergh writes. “It’s our duty to make it as easy as possible for our employees to vote, especially given the unique challenges voters are facing this year.”

While this year is very unusual, the voting mission has been at the top of Levi’s agenda for its entire history. As Bergh explains it: “This was something that our company’s founder understood 156 years ago. Levi Strauss was a Bavarian immigrant who settled in San Francisco during the California Gold Rush. In 1864, America held an election three years into the Civil War and Strauss decided to close his business on Election Day so that his employees could cast their ballots. The result of that election was historic: Abraham Lincoln’s reelection ended any chance of a Confederate victory.”

There is much at stake in this year’s race between President Donald Trump and former VP Joe Biden.

A year ago, polling experts predicted the 2020 presidential election would bring record turnout among voters. Notably, 2018 saw the highest engagement for a midterm election since 1970 (with 49% participation), and presidential contests typically drive even more people to the polls.

But the arrival of the coronavirus has upended all previous calculations. The country’s dual economic and health crises could inspire higher participation — as could the social justice movement sweeping the U.S. But virus concerns might keep some voters home on election day, along with confusion over state and local rules for early and absentee voting.

That’s why many companies are making it clear where they stand when it comes to voting. Steve Madden and Birkenstock among the big shoe players who plan to close their corporate offices on Election Day and Coach entered into a partnership with LeBron James’ “More Than A Vote” organization aimed at combating voter suppression in the Black community.
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