Election season is already well upon us, and October will bring more of it. More yard signs, door hangers, phone calls and, of course, television ads. Lots and lots more television ads. Many find this barrage of messages confusing and frustrating.
But elections are integral to American democracy. And they affect every aspect of our lives, including business.
The Columbus Chamber is “the voice of business” in the Columbus region. Through this important role, the chamber government relations team monitors policy and legislation and advocates for a business-friendly environment. However, it is also part of the chamber’s mission to ensure that business leaders understand the significance of ballot issues and races—from school boards to the presidential election—as well as empower their employees with information and the ability to participate in the process.
Why? Because every vote counts. Remember Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004? In Ohio in 2004, the margin of victory was 10 votes per precinct. Just 10 votes per precinct helped determine who would be the president.
And every race can impact business in some way, from the president of the United States to city council members and municipal judges to senators. Think health-care policies and how they impact employees’ lives and the bottom line. And the quality of the schools and how they affect the skills of future employees, as well as property values. All are issues that impact business.
The chamber encourages business executives to help their employees be engaged and educated. Here’s how.
• First, lead by example. If employers are going to ask their employees to be informed and vote, then employers should be registered to vote and be informed about issues and candidates, too.
• Make voter registration easy. Companies should offer voter registration opportunities for their employees. Organize voter registration drives during lunch hours and always make voter registration forms available for employees to pick up as they leave work. The last day to register to vote in Ohio for the Nov. 6 election is Oct. 9.
• Be supportive. Companies should provide supportive policies for employee voting. This includes allowing employees time off to vote during the work day, or providing employees with information on how they can vote via absentee ballot. Absentee ballot application forms are available online and can be copied to provide to employees who may want to skip the polls and vote in this manner.
• Get involved. Companies can participate in programs provided by the local board of elections. For example, the Columbus Chamber supports the “Champions of Democracy” program with the Franklin County Board of Elections. This program encourages companies to allow their employees to take a day of vacation, or provide their employees a paid day off, to participate as poll workers on Election Day.
Knowledge is Power
• What issues are important? Companies should communicate to employees how elections affect their business and
provide as much information as possible on all sides of the issues or races so employees can make informed decisions. Some companies provide brochures about the issues that are important to their industry and the views of each candidate in major races. This information can usually be gathered on candidate websites or by contacting the candidate’s campaign and asking for the candidate’s stance on a particular issue.
• Make it easy to access information. For instance, Nationwide has a Civic Action Program (CAP)—a nonpartisan organization that was established in 1978 to support the company’s government relations activities by encouraging associates, agents and retirees to voluntarily participate in the political process. The CAP provides information about candidates and issues to Nationwide associates, agents and customers through various communications, programs and activities. One example is the “candidates fair” that Nationwide hosts for its employees. This is an opportunity for candidates and representatives of issues to bring literature and other information to be distributed to the Nationwide team. Again, knowledge is power.
The Columbus Chamber helps to ensure that employees of member businesses are registered to vote, informed about
early voting opportunities and equipped with the information they need to make the voice of business count on Election Day. Some voter information resources can be found on the chamber’s website: www.columbus.org/voterinformation.
How can the Columbus Chamber serve you? The chamber’s government relations team is available as a resource for businesses—helping them navigate government at the local, state and federal levels. Contact them at (614) 221-1321for assistance.
Michael Dalby is president and CEO of the Columbus Chamber. He can be reached at (614) 225-6917 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted from the October 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.