Even as partisan politics reach a fever pitch, voter turnout in the United States remains alarmingly low. On average, about 60 percent of the eligible voting population vote during presidential election years, and around 40 percent vote during Midterm elections, according to the electoral reform nonprofit FairVote. With less than two weeks until the Midterms, a new nonprofit initiative is rallying top companies to help get out the vote.
Launched yesterday, the Civic Responsibility Project wants to make it easier for companies to encourage voting among their employees and customers. “A country is only as strong as the engagement of its citizens—and right now nearly half of all Americans are opting out of our democratic process every election,” the Project team wrote in a press release. “The result of sustained levels of disengagement and fierce partisanship is a democracy that fails to meet the demands of a 21st-century society.”
The Project is offering a free toolkit to help companies give their stakeholders vital information about how to vote in this year’s Midterms—such as polling place locations, registration information and key dates like deadlines. It will also work with partner companies to personalize their get-out-the-vote initiatives and provide additional resources like customized voter registration links and state-specific voter registration packets.
“Many of America’s companies have proven track records in helping to solve social problems and have played a large part in shifting cultural attitudes,” said Ashley Spillane, advisor to the Civic Responsibility Project and former president of the youth voter engagement organization Rock the Vote, in a statement. “We need Corporate America’s help to ensure democracy is reflective of the overall population.”
The Project’s advisory board includes brand experts, media mavens and political operatives from both sides of the aisle. Along with Spillane, Nike alum Victor Nguyen-Long; Adam Conner, former government affairs pro for Slack and Facebook; and Brett Loper, a former American Express SVP who also served as chief of staff for Rep. John Boehner, are among those raising the call for greater voter turnout—saying, “Voter participation is not a partisan issue.”
Early voting is already underway in states across the country, including Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas. A total of 38 states plus the District of Columbia allow some sort of early voting (you can check out the timelines for your state here). And while voter registration has already closed in some places, 17 states and the District of Columbia offer same-day registration—meaning campaigns like these can not only summon registered voters off the sofa, but also get new voters to the polls.
Leading businesses like Twitter, Facebook, Lyft, Uber and Walmart are already getting involved in the effort to increase civic participation. One company, Patagonia, has taken a particular interest in this year’s Midterms.
The outdoor gear favorite has encouraged its community to vote with the planet in mind since 2004, but it's become decidedly more outspoken in recent years. Mere hours after the Donald Trump administration announced plans to shrink the size of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by up to 90 percent last year, the company posted a brazen message on its homepage reading, “The president stole your land.” It also joined REI and other outdoor labels in a lawsuit against the administration to protect public lands.
This year, for the first time in the company’s history, it is endorsing two candidates for the U.S. Senate in an attempt to further push for the protection of outdoor spaces. Both candidates are running on land and water protection as key components of their platforms, Patagonia said.
In Nevada, home to Patagonia’s global distribution center, more than 650 employees and its famous Worn Wear repair center, the company is supporting Senate candidate Jacky Rosen. Patagonia has worked with grassroots environmental groups and state leaders on some of Nevada’s most important conservation accomplishments in the last 20 years. It helped advocate for the protection of some of the state’s most important landscapes, including the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area and Gold Butte National Monument.
“[Patagonia is proud to support] Jacky Rosen because she will fight to protect Nevada’s public lands and the vibrant outdoor industry that depends on them,” Rose Marcario, president and CEO of Patagonia, said in a statement. “Jacky has a strong record of defending public lands in Congress and protecting our access to clean air and clean waters. We need her leadership to protect Nevada’s economy and the basic health of its people, so the business community can thrive and so Nevadans can prosper.”
In Montana, where the company created its 1% for the Planet program, it’s backing Jon Tester—the only organic farmer in the Senate—for re-election. The company’s conservation efforts in Montana date back to the late 1980s when it began giving grants to support the Montana Wilderness Association—and it’s since doled out nearly $5 million to grassroots groups in the state.
Most recently, the company supported the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project. Championed by Sen. Tester, the initiative proposes to expand the Bob Marshall, Mission Mountain and Scapegoat wilderness areas by close to 80,000 acres, while “setting forth a collaborative vision that brings conservation, recreation, forest restoration and economic benefits,” the company said.
“We are supporting Jon Tester because he gives a damn about protecting public lands—and, like us, he’s committed to fight back against anyone who doesn’t,” Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard said in a statement. “He goes to work every day for the 95 percent of Montanans who believe recreation on public lands is a priority.”
The company will feature the endorsements on its website and social media, as well as in customer emails. "This is not born from a desire to get into partisan politics," Patagonia's leadership insisted in a press statement. "In fact, it’s the opposite—it’s about standing up for the millions of Americans who want to see wild places protected for future generations. That’s something we will always do, regardless of political party."
Image credit: Parker Johnson via Unsplash