With early voting already underway for the May 7th election in Collin County, local businesses are turning to their employees to drive up voter engagement.
"We have got to get more people out to vote, and businesses can help us do that with their employees," said Chris Wallace, CEO of the North Texas Commission, in a virtual conversation hosted by the Collin County Business Alliance to promote the Collin County Votes initiative.
"Bad politicians are elected by good people who do not vote," said Wallace, noting that less than one in five North Texas voters participated in the March 1 election.
Start with the basics
The Collin County Business Alliance, in partnership with Community Impact Newspapers and area chambers of commerce, has positioned Collin County Votes as a resource for North Texas businesses interested in crafting voter engagement efforts with employees.
Start with information. "Basically, we encourage everything in terms of registering to vote, where to go vote, when to go vote, giving a timeline," said Wallace. "Everything but how to vote."
Collin County Votes maintains a handy list of "Do's and Don'ts" for corporate voter engagement that suggests channels for employers to share neutral election information in the workplace. Alert your workforce to the how, when, and where of voting through email reminders, voting calendars, and digital signage. Capital One, a partner of the Collin County Business Alliance, worked with the Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC) to create the customized “Capital One Votes Site” where employees could search for particulars on deadlines, candidates, and polling locations.
Capital One didn’t forget the human touch. They enlisted internal “thought leaders'' to get personal about the why of voting in blog posts on the company’s internal network. Capital One also joined with employee-led Business Resource Groups to update members as the election season unfolded. The Collin County Votes initiative’s Do’s and Don’ts guide says it’s OK for a business to host non-mandatory voting events, even an Election Day party, as long as you stick to getting out the vote.
Give them a scorecard
Business leaders can provide employees with info resources on issues related to their respective industries and how candidates have voted on those issues. "Employers must go one step further and that is to provide every tool possible for employees to have an educated vote," said Wallace.
One such tool is an accountability index, giving employees a way to keep score of how house members and state senators vote on key bills related to the Collin County region and business sectors like oil, tech and financial services. Collin County Votes encourages business leaders, if they feel comfortable, to let employees know which issues matter most to the company. If your business is health care, it’s fine to say health care reform is critical to your industry's success, as long as you don't push a particular candidate.
"That's the main thing is that employers are sharing with their employees the importance of their participation in this process and how that participation is so impactful to the industry in which they are employed, in which they serve," said Wallace.
Don't forget the primary
Urge potential voters in your workforce to participate in the primary process. In a hyper-partisan world where one party can dominate a region, candidates may run unopposed or cruise to a lopsided victory. That's when the primary matters most.
"So many people say 'Well, you know, I don't want to vote in the primary. I want to wait and vote in the general.’ But you're missing a lot of key decision-making during the primary election," said Wallace.
Wallace referenced a closely fought GOP primary in Denton County with a margin of victory of less than a hundred votes.
"Every vote really does count,” Wallace said.