Business groups are looking to make a difference in November’s midterm elections.
As a recent piece on the The Hill website reports, “Heavyweight groups such as the National Retail Federation, the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Associated General Contractors of America and BIPAC are among those seeking to increase engagement in the political process this year.”
According to The Hill, more than 90 companies and industry groups are taking part in the Employee Voter Registration Week (which ends today), including the American Forest & Paper Association, Anadarko Petroleum, Caterpillar, eBay and a slew of state-level organizations. Their hope is to break the gridlock and get employees registered and involved.
About 54 percent of American voters went to the polls two years ago, compared to around 38 percent in the 2010 midterms.
David French, the senior vice president of government relations at the National Retail Federation who discussed the initiative at a press conference the other day (see video), notes that …
“Any of these races could be decided by a few hundred votes, so a strong turnout from the business community could make the difference between a candidate who understands our concerns and a candidate who’s tuned to other voters’ interests.”
As The Hill piece explains, “trade groups and corporations will not be instructing their members and employees how to vote or who to vote for … but will be providing information about deadlines, how to register and where to vote.”
I asked Littler Shareholder Michael Lotito (who is based in San Francisco, but always keeps a watchful eye on what policymakers are up to in Washington) to share his thoughts on the significance of this effort.
Lotito sees it as a counter weight to what the American Federation of Labor does in getting out the vote through registration drives and email solicitations.
“Businesses have been largely quiet in this regard,” he says. “But often, the employees would benefit from hearing from their employer as to how the positions of candidates and state and local propositions may impact the company and, either directly or indirectly, the employees who depend on the company. Many companies are not engaged in this process, not even encouraging their people to register and vote, let alone modify work schedules on election day to make sure people can vote.”
Lotito also suggests that HR might want to be more than just a bystander in this regard. “Let HR be the leader for the identification of issues, how those items will impact the company, which candidates (regardless of party) advances those interests, and then advising how a person can register to vote, obtain absentee ballots and go to the polls on election day.”
At the end of the day, it’s probably going to be tough to know how much of an impact any of this will have, but with voter turnout for the midterms being as pitiful as it is, it would seem to me that any effort to get citizens more engaged (if I can borrow a word from the HR lexicon) in our electoral system should be viewed as a good thing.
In case you’re wondering, the midterms are November 4—so, if you haven’t yet, mark it down.Twitter It!