200+ Businesses Urge Congress to Pass Funding for Safe, Secure Election on Nov. 3
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 23, 2020) — The resurgence of the coronavirus across the United States has intensified the calls from the business community for Congress to provide the funding necessary for state and local governments to run safe and accessible elections in the face of a pandemic, but time is running out to prevent the risk of chaos.
This week, Business for America (BFA) and its coalition of hundreds of civic-minded companies, business groups, and business leaders across the country are letting congressional leaders know exactly what’s at stake: a lack of appropriate funding will threaten the security of the November 3 general election, risk the personal health of millions of American voters and election workers, and create the potential for chaos due to uncertain election results.
Following the Senate Rules Committee’s hearing on Wednesday, July 22 in Washington D.C to discuss 2020 election preparations, BFA is conducting separate meetings for coalition businesses to advocate for federal funding directly with U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), the committee chairman; Pat Toomey (R-PA); Cory Gardner (R-CO); and other senators.
In response to the hearing, BFA will conduct a press and business briefing with CEOs on Friday, July 31 at noon EDT with Seventh Generation CEO Joey Bergstein, ECOS CEO Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, Business for America CEO Sarah Bonk, and additional business leaders to be announced. This public online conversation for business and political reporters will highlight the sense of urgency and reasons the private sector believes Congress should provide additional funding to states.The event will identify next steps that BFA and its business partners will be taking to support election officials in the coming months.
“This is an absolutely crucial time for leadership in Washington D.C. to do what is necessary to protect election security, accessibility, and integrity,” says BFA Founder and CEO Sarah Bonk. “Election officials across the country and on both sides of the aisle have told us that additional resources are needed to meet the increased demand for absentee ballots and ensure in-person polling places are safe. If the funding doesn’t arrive, we’ll see even longer lines and more undelivered ballots than we saw during the primaries. The potential for chaos is real, and Congress has a duty to take action now.”
Among the 200+ companies signing the letter, notable signatories include Ben & Jerry’s, Burton, Comedy Central, Cox Enterprises, ECOS, Eileen Fisher, Eventbrite, Everlane, Harry’s, Legacy Vacation Resorts, Lime, MTV, New Belgium Brewing, Orvis, Patagonia, REI, Seventh Generation, Square, Sweetgreen, Unilever, and Warby Parker. These businesses represent more than 140,000 employees and $83 billion in annual revenue. The letter also includes signatures from 18 state and local business groups representing thousands of small and mid-sized companies from across the country.
“There has never been a more important moment to make sure the voices of our employees and all those in our communities are heard,” says Fabian Garcia, President of Unilever North America. “As a business committed to inclusion, we are calling on Congress to ensure in-person voting this November will be safe for all, and encourage expanding availability of vote-by-mail.”
As follow up to the letter to Congress, Business for America is mobilizing businesses in several key states to support the policy and technology changes that are best suited for each state’s unique election setup. Operation Vote Safe is BFA’s pilot program to match the needs of local election officials — like PPE, sanitation supplies, facilities, or poll workers — with the resources of regional companies.
To read the full letter and view the list of signatories, visit bfa.us/votesafe.
With an increasing sense of urgency as the coronavirus surges in communities across the country, more than 200 businesses have signed BFA’s letter urging federal lawmakers to direct funding to states and territories to shore up their election operations, expand secure absentee ballot systems, and extend early in-person voting for this year’s election. The letter, which is addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, urges congressional leaders to appropriate $3.6 billion in additional funding.
The Senate Rules Committee hearing will include testimony from state and local election officials who are responsible for conducting elections and ensuring their accessibility, safety, and integrity. Congress is expected to approve another round of economic stimulus in response to COVID-19 that may include additional election funding sometime in August. BFA’s business sign-on letter will officially be entered into the hearing’s public record courtesy of Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
The $2.2 trillion relief package signed into law by President Trump on March 27 included $400 million in grants to help states run their elections during COVID-19. However, it is not enough to deal with a massive surge in absentee ballot requests or the need for social distancing at the polls during what will likely be an election with record turnout. Funding is necessary to ensure that the ballots are tabulated quickly and accurately, so the election results are credible and resistant to legal challenges regardless of who wins. Failure to act could lead to chaos and deepen public distrust in government.
An April 30 report detailing the funding necessary for state and local governments to ensure safe elections reveals that the overwhelming majority of funding is needed at the local jurisdiction level, in some cases up to 90%. The additional funding will help scale operations for an expected surge in voter turnout, support changed voter behavior (an estimated 30 to 40% more voters registering online or requesting an absentee ballot), protect voters and election workers (e.g., providing PPE, setting up curbside polling, sanitizing voting spaces), and educate the public about changes (e.g., changed polling locations). This report represents the consensus of an ideologically diverse group of organizations.
“The right to vote is guaranteed by the Constitution and is essential for a functioning democracy. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many voters, particularly low-income voters and voters of color, faced unnecessary challenges to casting a ballot. The pandemic has further revealed deep structural inequities in our society. The changes we are calling for will help to ensure that the 2020 election is safe, secure, and accessible for all voters.”
Joey Bergstein, CEO of Seventh Generation
“So many have sacrificed so much for our right to vote. We will do everything in our power to protect the right to vote for our employees and community and to ensure their voices are heard in November.”
Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker
“We’ve worked very hard to protect the health and safety of our employees at our ice cream factories and corporate headquarters. I am frightened by the prospect of our employees and people around the country having to choose between their right to vote and the very real threat to the health of themselves, their families, fellow employees and our democracy.”
Matthew McCarthy, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s
“I believe that business leaders like me have a duty to protect the health of our employees, customers, and communities. At the same time, we have a duty to help protect our democracy. We can do both with voting by mail.”
Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, President & CEO at ECOS
“A successful democracy is dependent on active participation by its citizens. Anything that enables broad, secure and efficient participation by citizens—such as voting by mail—should be encouraged. It is an already widely used tool in many states, it is time to enable its use fully.”
Hugh Welsh, President & General Counsel at DSM North America
“Our communities shouldn't have to risk their health just to cast their vote this election. With employees and riders in cities across the country, we believe every state and city leader should have the resources they need to provide equal and safe opportunities for citizens to exercise their right to vote."
Wayne Ting, CEO of Lime
“Policy change is crucial to addressing issues of environment, equity, and justice. We urge elected officials to provide the tools needed for our community to be active and engaged citizens including exercising our right to vote, safely, in-person or by mail.”
Jenn Swain, Global Senior Sustainability Manager at Burton
“Vote By Mail makes it possible, no matter where our employees are, to exercise their constitutional right. Anything that makes voting easier and more accessible supports increasing inclusivity - an important core value to Eileen Fisher.”
Amy Hall, Vice President of Social Consciousness at Eileen Fisher
"We strongly believe that if every American were able to cast a vote, most of our larger problems—including climate change, equity, poverty, education—would take care of themselves. Mail-in ballots are a step in that direction."
Auden Schendler, SVP of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company
“The wellness of our employees at Badger is key to our success. Their ability to vote is part of that. Vote By Mail enables our team to effectively contribute to improving the civic health of their communities. Being able to vote without barriers, especially during this time of the pandemic is essential. Voting by mail ensures that.”
Rebecca Hamilton, CEO at W.S. Badger Company
“Recent primaries show the ‘in-person only’ voting option in the midst of a health crisis forces voters to choose between their safety and the opportunity to cast their ballot. Given the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, we support a secure and accessible vote-by-mail system that allows registered voters to easily and safely participate in our democracy this November.”
Michelle Kalberer, Co-Owner/Co-CEO, Klean Kanteen
"We all have a civic responsibility to participate in Election Day to take action and make our voices heard. Every vote matters, no matter what you believe or who you support, and in the face of COVID-19, it's imperative that we ensure casting our ballots is not only accessible, but safe."
Linsey Morrison, VP of Policy & Platform Operations, Eventbrite
About Business for America
Business for America is a nonpartisan network of business leaders advancing solutions to boost civic engagement, reduce political polarization, and modernize government. A well-functioning democracy will help foster a more competitive, innovative business climate in America. Businesses interested in getting involved can learn more at bfa.us.