Among the many enduring images that have defined 2020 are the photos of citizens in the U.S., from Wisconsin to Georgia, waiting in long lines to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Now, some of the most recognizable brands and companies out there, including Patagonia, Seventh Generation and Unilever, are putting their might behind U.S. election reforms including voting by mail.
“The right to vote is guaranteed by the Constitution and is essential for a functioning democracy,” said Joey Bergstein, CEO of Seventh Generation, in an emailed statement. “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many voters, particularly low-income voters and voters of color, faced unnecessary challenges to casting a ballot. The pandemic has further revealed deep structural inequities in our society. The changes we are calling for will help to ensure that the 2020 election is safe, secure, and accessible for all voters.”
On that point, in a letter that as of press time that includes more than 130 large companies as signatories, the message to the U.S. Congress is simple: get your act together and ensure the country’s democracy will function.
Business for America (BFA), a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, has been the driving force behind this campaign. The group’s bottom-line argument is that a well-functioning democracy is the foundation of all U.S. citizens’ rights to justice and liberty – and BFA also argues that fair access to the voting booth is important to a competitive economy, too.
BFA raises the point that the extensive coronavirus stimulus package that Congress passed and President Trump signed into law on March 27 was a start with its $400 million in grants to help states run their elections during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the organization and its business allies insist that current measures in place are not enough to cope with the huge influx of absentee ballots – nor are they adequate to ensure compliance with social distancing guidelines that most likely will be the norm through at least early 2021.
And in a nod to the guffaws that resulted when it turned out the results from Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus results emerged at a painfully glacial pace, BFA is also calling for federal funds to ensure this November’s election ballots are counted quickly and accurately, even if voting by mail becomes the norm.
These companies, along with the thousands of smaller businesses supporting this pledge, are striving for a simple goal: the depoliticization of early in-person voting, as well as voting by mail. Voting through the postal service is already working in Washington and Oregon - the latter of which has made it standard practice since the turn of the century.
“We need to strengthen our democracy by making it easier—and safer—to vote, because everything else depends on that,” said Rose Marcario, president and CEO of Patagonia. “Voting in this country was already too difficult before the pandemic and participation was already too low, but the virus has further exacerbated the problem. As we all learned from the Wisconsin primary debacle, people shouldn’t have to risk their safety, or that of others, to participate in an election.”
Image credit: Koshu Kunii/Unsplash
Editor's note: we have since received a press release announcing that Rose Marcario will leave Patagonia as of June 12.
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's worked an lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.