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Aug. 27, 2020, 10:47 a.m. EDT

Walmart, Starbucks and a growing number of U.S. companies set to give workers time off to vote

‘No American should have to choose between earning a paycheck and voting’ said PayPal President and CEO Dan Schulman

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By Associated Press

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“We really want companies to go further and acknowledge the unique difficulties of this moment,” she said. “Two hours may not be enough.”

Efforts to make Election Day a federal holiday, as it is in South Korea and Israel, or hold votes on weekends, as Germany and Australia do, have fallen short in the U.S., partly due to partisan bickering over who would benefit from the change.

Jonathan Entin, a professor emeritus of law and adjunct professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University, said weekend voting would be difficult in the U.S. because of its religious diversity. Opponents of a federal holiday also usually cite the disruption to the economy, he said.

“Why is it that the private sector should bear the cost of this public good?” he said.

Peter Paladjian, the CEO of Boston-based Intercontinental Real Estate Corp., said companies want to show that they are responsible and civic-minded.

Low U.S. turnout in elections has bothered Paladjian for years. In 2016, 56% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the presidential election, a far lower percentage than most developed countries, according to the Pew Research Center.

Paladjian told his 112 employees four months ago that they will get Election Day off. Then, he formed A Day for Democracy, which asks employers to give workers time off to vote and distribute voter registration information.

Harvard University, Wayfair, Bank of America and the Boston Red Sox are among the 185 companies that have signed up, he said. Only a handful of companies he contacted said no. Once this election is over, Paladjian plans to advocate for a federal election holiday.

Time to Vote, another corporate voting initiative, was formed ahead of the 2018 elections by Levi Strauss and Co., PayPal and Patagonia. A little over 400 companies participated last time; Time to Vote says 700 have joined so far this year.

Corporate voter drives say the pledge is important even as the coronavirus hastens the move toward mail-in voting. In 2016, 42% of ballots were cast before Election Day; this year, that will likely rise to 60%, said Michael Traugott, a research professor emeritus at the University of Michigan’s Center for Political Studies.

Gilbert said even if people vote early, they can still take time on Election Day to drive people to polls, work at polling stations or provide child care so someone else can vote in person.

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