On July 24, 2020, Apple Inc. announced that its U.S. employees would get a paid half-day off on Election Day, November 3, to either vote or volunteer in a polling place. It applies to the broadest tier of the company, retail and hourly employees, who make up most of the 47,000 U.S. employees Apple reports.
Why? On Election Day in 2016, polling places in some parts of the country had lines that stretched for blocks, with hours-long wait times. Voters in downtown Arizona waited as long as 5 hours, keeping the polls open until after midnight. Four-hour-long lines were reported in Charlotte, North Carolina, and other southern cities.
These long lines, mostly seen in Southern and Southwestern states, were all in counties that had seen high rates of polling place closures after a 2013 Supreme Court ruling overturned much of the Voting Rights Act. Between 2013 and 2015, 403 polling places had closed in Texas, 212 in Arizona, more than 200 in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and another 40 polling places in North and South Carolina. Entire towns no longer have local places to vote, leaving those who can’t take an entire day off of work out of the Democratic process so central to this country.
Voting rights activists have long platformed that the most equitable way to assure every citizen of this country their right to vote would be a federal holiday on November 3, a paid vacation day to go and do our civic duty. The idea has never gained traction in Washington, D.C., but the private sector has taken the lead. Earlier, Uber and Twitter also gave employees paid time off on Election Day.
“For retail team members and hourly workers across the company, if you’re scheduled to work this Election Day, we’ll be providing up to four hours of paid time off if you need it to get to the polls,” said Deirdre O’Brien, senior VP of retail and people at Apple announced in a staff memo.
Hopefully, the tech giant’s move is another rolling boulder in a building avalanche of social change.
Photo: Virginians voting in the 2016 election. Credit: Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com