Tag Archives: voter turnout

Patagonia joins companies letting workers off on Election Day

Patagonia is joining other companies that are giving workers a day off on Election Day, saying it wants to encourage its employees to have the time to elect candidates up and down the ballot who will protect the environment.

There’s been a movement called “Take Off Election Day” that has enlisted hundreds of tech companies, mainly smaller ones, to give people Nov. 8 off.

But the move by a company like Patagonia may give other big brands more to think about. The Ventura, California-based retailer says it’s closing its corporate office, customer service and distribution center and all 29 U.S. stores on Election Day for the first time and giving its 1,800 workers a paid holiday.

“There has been so much rancor, but the important issues we are not hearing about,” CEO Rose Marcario exclusively told The Associated Press. “Our point of view is to bring attention to environmental issues on the ticket including climate change.”

The “Take Off Election Day” effort particularly among Silicon Valley companies, lists nearly 320 participating U.S. companies on its website, including Spotify and TaskRabbit. Hunter Walk, a partner at the venture capital firm Home Brew in San Francisco, has been behind the campaign.

Josh Wexler, CEO of RevCascade, a retail technology company with offices in New York and Los Angeles, decided to give all 14 of his employees a day off after seeing tweets from Walk about the issue.

“It really felt that this is an election that it is very important,” said Wexler. “A lot of people can’t vote because they have to go to work.”

Patagonia has launched nonpartisan environmental campaigns for election seasons since 2004. The company’s 2016 Vote Our Planet campaign focuses on educating citizens on using their votes to protect the nation’s air, soil and water. By Election Day, Patagonia will have hosted almost 60 events across the U.S. this year.

Marcario told The Associated Press that Patagonia decided on Wednesday to give employees the day as a paid holiday.

According to time.com, venture capitalist Hunter Walk, a partner at the VC startup Homebrew, gave the idea momentum by tweeting messages over the summer encouraging CEOs to give employees Election Day off. So far, about 300 have responded by allowing workers to take at least some time off on Election Day.

The largest companies that have announced they’ll close shop on Nov. 8 include:

  • Patagonia
  • Spotify
  • Salon
  • TaskRabbit
  • Square Inc
  • Enigma
  • Thrillest Media Group
  • Casper Sleep Inc.
  • Home Brew
  • Survey Monkey
  • com
  • Crisis Text LIne
  • Autodesk
  • Managed by Q
  • Evernote

 

 

Supreme Court election, contentious county race drive turnout in Milwaukee

Voter turnout for the Feb. 16 primary elections in Milwaukee was nearly double that of the last municipal primary in 2012. Hotly contested races for the state Supreme Court, Milwaukee County Executive, Milwaukee mayor and seven Milwaukee aldermanic districts helped spur participation.

Neil Albrecht, executive director of the city of Milwaukee Election Commission, said turnout this year was 21 percent, compared to 12 percent in 2012.

The turnout “really isn’t attributable to anything other than who’s on the ballot and how contentious the races are,” Albrecht said, noting the 2012 municipal primary had much lower-profile contests.

SUPREME COURT

At the top of the ballot was a three-way race for the state’s Supreme Court. The two highest vote getters will face off in a general election on April 5.

Winning one of the places on that ballot was Rebecca Bradley, a controversial Supreme Court justice who was appointed by Scott Walker months ago. She received 45 percent of the statewide vote.

Close behind, JoAnne Kloppenburg won the other spot on the April ballot. She took second place with 43 percent of the vote. In 2011, she came close to unseating right-wing Justice David Prosser.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald came in third. Conventional wisdom is that Donald’s voters will give their support to Kloppenburg in April, which suggests a tough race ahead for Bradley.

Adding to her difficulty, Bradley is closely tied to Walker, whose approval rating stands at just 38 percent. On the other hand, she has strong Republican support and can expect massive contributions from Koch-backed groups as well as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, another right-wing group.

LARSON VICTORY

Another big draw on the Feb. 16 ballot was a spirited race for Milwaukee County Executive between incumbent Chris Abele and challenger Chris Larson, a state senator. Larson eked out a slim but impressive 700-vote victory in the primary, which also included long-shot candidates Joseph T. Klein, a member of the Wisconsin Pirate Party, and carpenter Steve Hogan.

Abele and Larson are both political progressives. Nonetheless, Larson ran a negative campaign that attacked Abele as a power-hungry oligarch indifferent to the middle class and the poor. Larson’s supportive PAC tried to tie Abele to Scott Walker, depicting the two political opposites as flip sides of the same coin in one campaign mailer.

Abele ran a positive campaign touting his success in increasing county services while restoring fiscal balance to the county after inheriting a massive structural debt from his predecessor, Walker.

VOTER ID STILL MOSTLY UNTESTED

The first-time implementation of the state’s new voter ID law went relatively smoothly in this primary, but the law has yet to face its most challenging test.

Conservatives were quick to seize on higher turnout in Milwaukee and throughout much of the state yesterday as proof the new voter ID law failed to stifle participation, as liberal groups had predicted. But Albrecht said the real test of the law’s impact will come with the elections in April and especially in November, when there will be presidential, senatorial and other high-profile races on the ballot.

Although voting went smoothly for the most part, Albrecht said “there was a fair amount of confusion and frustration for voters.”

In addition to dealing with their first election using the voter ID law, poll workers had to implement other changes that state GOP leaders have made to the electoral process. Since taking office in 2011, Walker has enacted 33 laws that impact the electoral process in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Legislative Council.

“I don’t think lawmakers or the pubic necessarily recognize that election workers only perform their duties four times a year at the most and (the laws) have become so complex that it really is a struggle for the workers and for the voters,” Albrecht said.

He added that voters in February primaries are usually the most dedicated and experienced voters, so they tend to be more knowledgeable and aware of voter requirements.

“The February primary (draws) the frequent voters, the people who come out and vote in probably every election,” Albrecht explained. “The real test of how the ID law affects voters will be this April and November. You can’t gauge the effect of photo ID by a primary.” 

U.S. trails other nations in voter turnout

The “land of the free and the brave” ranks No. 31 among 34 democratic countries in an analysis of voter turnout by the Pew Research Center.

One contributing factor: U.S. citizens aren’t required to vote.

Pew examined the issue and found that the United States has the fourth worst turnout of the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Corporation and Development, which includes highly developed, democratic states.

U.S. voter turnout was 53.6 percent in 2012, when the last nationwide election took place. In other OECD countries, Pew reported turnouts of 87.2 percent in Belgium, 86.4 percent in Turkey, 82.6 percent in Sweden. The lowest turnout was in Switzerland, at 40 percent.

Pew noted that voting is compulsory in Belgium and Turkey. Such laws aren’t always strictly enforced, but they do have an impact. Pew said three of the five nations with the highest turnouts require that citizens cast ballots.

Meanwhile, voter turnout in Chile plunged after the country abandoned compulsory voting in 2012 — from 87 percent in 2010 to 42 percent in 2013.

Pew noted in its research that in many OECD countries, the government adds names to the voter rolls when a citizen becomes eligible or seeks out and registers voters.

This is not the situation in the United States, where about 65 percent of the voting-age population is registered.

Wisconsin pre-Election Day voter turnout climbs

UPDATED: With more than 289,000 ballots received as of Monday, Wisconsin has significantly increased its 2010 pre-election turnout, when Republican Scott Walker claimed the governor’s seat.

About 18.5 million Americans in 32 states already have cast ballots in the nation’s midterm elections, a significant increase over the 2010 early voting, according to data from state elections officials.

At least 11 states have exceeded their advance voting totals from the last midterms in 2010, with several more poised to do the same as voters return more absentee ballots and officials tally the final days of in-person advance voting.

In 2010, when Republicans regained control the House and swept into power in statehouses across the country, 26.9 million or about 30 percent of the total 89 million ballots were cast before traditional precincts opened.

Here’s a look at where some states with key races stand this year:

COLORADO

With the count updated through Friday, Republicans maintained an 8.1 percentage point lead over Democrats in the first Colorado election in which every registered voter got their ballots by mail.

GOP registrants accounted for 41.4 percent of the returned ballots, compared to 32.3 percent from Democrats. Independent voters sent back 25.3 percent of the total, with 1.1 percent coming from minor party voters.

That could be a good sign for Republican Rep. Cory Gardner’s bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who was once viewed as a relatively safe incumbent and now could become a key pickup in the GOP’s quest for six more seats and a majority.

Republican analysts say that they continue to lead Democrats among irregular midterm voters – a target for both parties.

The GOP advantage is wider than its 5.6-point margin in 2010. That year, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet overcame the early deficit to win his seat by 1.7 percentage points or about 30,000 votes.

FLORIDA

Democrats continue to chip away at the Republicans’ usual pre-Election Day lead, as Charlie Crist tries to unseat GOP Gov. Rick Scott. Registered Republicans still have out-voted Democrats, but the margin has dwindled over the last several days to settle at 3.2 percentage points heading into Tuesday. Scott benefited from a 13-point early advantage four years ago, when he won a narrow victory even without a majority.

IOWA

Republicans continue their improved push in 2014, narrowing Democrats’ traditional advantage after watching Democrats use early voting to help President Barack Obama win the state in both of his national victories.

The state GOP has made advance voting a priority for its Senate nominee Joni Ernst, who is trying to win the seat opened by Democrat Tom Harkin’s retirement.

As of Monday, the number of ballots received was 108 percent of the 2010 total, with registered Democrats casting 40.9 percent of ballots and Republicans responsible for 39.2 percent. Four years ago, in a GOP wave year, Democrats led the early count by 5.5 percentage points.

Democrats’ say their analyses show they still have attracted more new midterm voters than Republicans, arguing that the GOP boost comes mostly from steering reliable supporters to early ballots, rather than voting on Tuesday, a shift that doesn’t change the bottom line.

LOUISIANA

With both major parties outperforming their 2010 benchmarks, Democrats account for more than half of the total advance ballots, 19 percentage points ahead of Republicans. But Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu still faces an uphill battle for a fourth term.

Republicans say their analysis shows that African-American turnout thus far is not high enough to overcome Landrieu’s deficit among white voters, including rural and small-town whites who are still registered as Democrats and could account for at least some of the party’s early lead.

Polls suggest Landrieu will face Rep. Bill Cassidy in Dec. 6 runoff.

NORTH CAROLINA – Registered Democrats will go into Election Day having cast 182,000 more ballots than registered Republicans – a gap of 16 percentage points. Democrats say that’s an important number for Sen. Kay Hagan, because it comes in part on the strength of African-Americans and women, who account for a larger share of the advance electorate than they did in 2010 and, in the case of black voters, even in 2012, when Obama topped the ballot.

Republicans’ reply: It’s still not enough. In 2010, North Carolina’s other senator, Republican Sen. Richard Burr, won by 313,000 votes in 2010 even with an advance deficit of more than 95,000 for Republicans.

Eliminating voter hours is undemocratic

Gov. Scott Walker recently signed the Wisconsin legislature’s partisan, anti-democratic bill (Wisconsin Bill 146)  to reduce voter turnout. It’s a bill that restricts the hours for voting early on weekdays and eliminates early voting on weekends altogether.

 This was the second time Wisconsin Republicans have set limits on early voting since Walker and GOP lawmakers took control of state government in January 2011. 

In 2011, the Wisconsin Legislature cut early voting from three weeks, including three weekends, to two weeks, including one weekend. This time, under the legislation as rewritten by Walker, early voting in clerk’s offices could take place solely on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This legislation is an unnecessary fix to a voting system that isn’t broken.  If anything, elected officials should be working on ways to increase participation in our democracy, not reduce it.

For the 2012 election, the weather was cold and wet in Wisconsin, and we still had 70-percent voter turnout. Wisconsin should be taking pride in that, not putting up obstacles that will reduce turnout. Regardless of background, income, age or ZIP code, all Wisconsinites who are eligible to vote should have the opportunity to do so with as much ease as their government can afford them.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind is a Democrat who represents southwest Wisconsin.