News & Opinion | March 4, 2020 10:08 am

Patagonia’s Plan to Make Voting Easier in the 2020 Election

The adventure outfitter is campaigning to make sure every American has time to vote

Patagonia wants a word with your employer this election season.
Patagonia wants a word with your employer this election season.
Element5 Digital/Unsplash

On the state of Election Day in the U.S., President Obama said in 2016, “We are the only advanced democracy that makes it deliberately difficult for people to vote.”

It’s true, unfortunately. The majority of the developed, democratic world holds elections over the weekend, and those that hold it during the week tend to designate the day a national holiday. The logic is simple: if you’re serious about getting a group of people to do something, you make it easy for them to do it.

In the States, though, lofty ideals and civic duty too often take a backseat on that dreary Tuesday in November, probably because kids need to get to school in the morning or work demands keep would-be voters on the clock late into the night.

This a partisan issue, of course. Democrats like Bernie Sanders have called for “Democracy Day” to make sure historically suppressed voters (many in wage-earning occupations with strict views on time off) can actually vote, while Republicans like Mitch McConnell have called those efforts a “power grab,” recognizing that higher voter turnout, specifically amongst the youth and minorities, could unseat red-state legislators.

The concept of voter turnout, though, shouldn’t be partisan. Democracy is about everyone having their say, and that should come unencumbered by the logistics and grind of getting through a day. Patagonia, the adventure outfitter that moonlights as an environmental activist and champion of democracy, certainly thinks so. The brand recently announced that their “Time to Vote” program, which first debuted ahead of the 2018 Midterm Elections, is back and bigger than ever for the 2020 Presidential Election.

Patagonia has gotten more than 400 companies across America, including big names like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Gap Inc. Levi Strauss & Co., Lyft, PayPal and even Walmart to commit to lenient and helpful work practices on the day of the election. At the most, that means paid time off. But it could also mean a day without meetings. Or resources to turn in a mail-in ballot. The key is that the stigma of missing work — a mental hurdle that already has Americans leaving vacation days (and billions of dollars in benefits) on the table each year — is removed, and citizens are free to do what citizens are supposed to do: vote.

Interested companies (or employees hoping their companies become interested) can head here for more information. The program is nonpartisan, and completely free.

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