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From Target to Twitter, U.S. companies urge workers to vote

(Reuters) - From Georgia to Wisconsin to Ohio earlier this year, voters in primary elections were stuck for hours in lines from sharply reduced polling locations. And the surge in absentee ballots due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic overwhelmed election officials.

FILE PHOTO: Stickers saying "I Voted Today" are given out to voters in the Democratic primary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 2, 2020. REUTERS/Rachel Wisniewski/File Photo
I Voted Stickers

Heeding the stark warning ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3, U.S. companies are aiming to facilitate what is expected to be a chaotic 2020 U.S. presidential election. Twitter (TWTR.N) and Apple (AAPL.O) are giving workers paid time off to get to ballot boxes. Starbucks (SBUX.O) and The Gap’s (GPS.N) Old Navy are urging staff to volunteer at local polling stations.

Nearly 800 companies including Nike (NKE.N), drugmaker Abbot Laboratories (ABT.N) and technology company Qualcomm (QCOM.O) are participating in a CEO-led bipartisan activist group called Time to Vote, which encourages companies to give employees at least a few hours off to vote.

Starbucks Chief Executive Kevin Johnson said last month that people could work out with managers when they can head to polls, adding that the move is partly motivated by concerns about Black voter suppression. Starbucks is also urging its over 200,000 U.S. employees register to vote from its mobile app.

“We know that barriers exist, notably in Black and Brown communities throughout the nation, that lend to systemic racism and require greater voter access and protections,” Johnson said in an internal memo on Aug. 27. “No (employee) will have to choose between working their shift or voting on or before Election Day.”

Rules securing time off for workers to vote vary by state. In New York, workers can be paid for up to two hours to vote, but they may be required to give advance notice. In Alabama, workers get one hour of unpaid time.

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