As of today, we are 60 days away from the 2020 election. One of our core organizational values at Code for America is to build equitable systems, and the system that is arguably most central to our democracy is the right to vote. Many of the issues that we work on are on the line on ballots across the country this November—so we’ve decided to join hundreds of other organizations and companies in making Election Day a staff holiday at Code for America.
For a decade, we have been working to change government systems so that all people are served with dignity and respect. In doing this work, we have come to know a lot about breaking down barriers to make government systems more equitable. Simply put, voting should be easy. The fact that we don’t make it easy is by design. In the 2016 election, less than 56% of eligible voters actually cast a ballot, putting our voter turnout far behind most developed countries. And the law determining the timing of our presidential elections—on the first Tuesday after November 1st—dates all the way back to 1845, when the vast majority of Americans were excluded from the right to vote. Today, we’re one of only nine OECD countries that hold weekday elections (and two of those make their election day a national holiday).
And this year, we have an enormous and unprecedented barrier to voting in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Brigade Network identified voting rights as one of their priority action areas at the beginning of 2020, and we’re so inspired by the work volunteers are doing to ensure that people feel safe and secure in the voting process, including a partnership with vote.org to keep voter information accurate and up-to-date in a constantly changing environment.
For these reasons and many more, we feel that one small but meaningful thing we can do is to remove the barrier of a work day from our team at Code for America. We hope that this will give them the flexibility to contribute to our democratic process, by voting themselves or by taking other democracy-enabling actions like volunteering as a poll worker or escorting others to the polls.
This is an important election year, and we need all hands on deck. In reimagining government in a way that serves everyone equitably, we must make sure everyone is seen and heard. That starts with voting. We can’t recreate Election Day overnight, but workplaces can choose to give their employees a day to be active participants in our democracy, and restore trust in government.