Players and coaches in the NBA — and elsewhere in the sports world — have been pushing for people to both register and actually vote this fall in recent weeks.
Players and coaches in the NBA — and elsewhere in the sports world — have been pushing for people to both register and actually vote this fall in recent weeks.
A new change to NBA 2K21 has some fans calling foul. The controversial change has been met with a flurry of criticism on Reddit. “Imagine paying for a full priced game which already has a tonne of real-world ads in it and then being blasted with additional ads,” A Redditor said.
Everywhere we turn lately, there’s one message we can’t avoid: Vote. Sometimes it’s even dramatized to the false choice, “Vote or die.” With such a pivotal election just weeks away, people are doing all they can to maximize turnout this November. In fact, the push to vote has become such a common refrain that it’s almost a meme, a non sequitur thrown into any and every context — like when Chris Evans accidentally revealed NSFW pictures on Instagram and turned the scandal into an opportunity to tell people to vote. Turnout in the U.S. is typically low compared to many other developed, wealthy nations. In the 2016 elections, about 60% of eligible voters cast a ballot. During the 2014 midterm elections, only 36.4% did. In contrast, Belgium had about an 87% voter turnout during its 2014 elections, and South Korea had about 78% turnout in its 2017 elections. U.S. turnout is low for a variety of complicated reasons, but the most obvious is that voting in the U.S. is like navigating a timed obstacle course, with voter suppression tactics disproportionately affecting the ability of Black Americans to vote. Voter ID laws, shifting voter registration rules and deadlines, closures of polling sites, cutting voting hours, even having to register to vote all pose barriers to participation. We’re one of the few nations that leave voter registration entirely in the hands of individuals, instead of automatically adding people to voter rolls once they reach eligible age. New obstacles are also constantly being added — for example, people with felony convictions in Florida, whose voting rights were restored in 2018, were recently barred from voting if they have outstanding fines related to their sentence, with efforts to pay off those fines blocked. And, sadly, among the most common obstacles to voting today is the fact that many Americans simply don’t have the time. In a survey of registered voters who didn’t end up voting in the 2014 midterms, 67% cited lack of time as the main reason. Within this group, 35% said it was because of work or school conflicts. If Election Day fell on a weekend or was made a national holiday, voting would become easier for a lot of people. Yet some politicians, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have called the idea of an Election Day holiday a “power grab” attempt by Democrats. That means if you’re currently employed, whether you’ll have enough time at the polls on November 3rd rests on how kind your employer is feeling. Often, it’s salaried, white-collar employees working in corporate offices who get ample opportunity to vote in-person without missing pay, further skewing what kinds of people get a say in politics. And while this year there’s been a bigger push from corporations to guarantee that their own employees have enough time to vote, it’s sobering that it wasn’t a bigger priority before. “We have Election Day as a paid holiday for the first time,” says Emma, 26, who works in public health. “I have always had to vote early — as a college student, and as a government employee who didn’t think the hassle of day-of voting was worth it.” She says that this year, her company is doing even more than giving time off. “We’re working with an organization to increase access to information as to how to vote safely during the pandemic, to ensure voter turnout is not deterred due to not knowing how to participate safely,” she says. For Jody, a 33-year-old art director, getting time off on Election Day is also a new policy this year. “With long lines and the need for more people to volunteer to become poll workers, our leadership decided that giving us the whole day off was the right decision,” she says. “We also receive eight hours of volunteer time off that can be used for any opportunity of our choice throughout the year. I’m using some of mine to go to poll worker training, and my day off for Election Day to be a poll worker.” She’s run into problems with voting in-person before. “In the primaries this year, I went to vote at my usual polling place at the end of my block,” she says. “When I got there I was told that my polling place was 25 minutes away. I had waited until the end of the day and didn’t have time to make it to the new location and my meetings.” Rocquelle, 35, who works in education in Texas, is also enjoying a new Election Day policy at work this year. “For the first time, my employer has made Election Day a school holiday, so we have the whole day off,” she says. She has always been able to vote, but recalls instances when she’s had to wait hours in line. “For the March primary, I got to the poll location just before 6 p.m., arriving straight from work, and it was well after midnight by the time I finally voted.” But of course, not all employers are recognizing the value of guaranteeing employees have enough paid time off on November 3rd. “We got a nice email from our CEO discussing the importance of voting, and received encouragement to register and vote,” says Chloe, 25, who works at a nonprofit. “But we do not have the day off. I’ll be using vacation time to serve as an election worker.” She remembers not voting once due to lack of time. “The work day had been long, and I would’ve had to travel through intense traffic to potentially not make it in time to the polls,” she says. “I work in a school in Indiana, and we’re expected to vote before or after work,” says Shannon, 34. “My work will be opening an hour later that day to accommodate people who want to vote before work.” This limited time frame led her to decide against in-person voting on November 3rd, and she has requested an absentee ballot. She explains that because she actually resides in Kentucky, she can vote by mail. But her coworkers who are residents of Indiana can only vote by mail if they qualify under a stricter set of excuses — such as being out of town or having a disability. Concern over COVID-19 is not a valid reason at this time in Indiana, and work is only a valid reason if you’re scheduled to work for the whole period that polls are open. Still, it’s undeniable that 2020 marks a shift in how workplaces talk about Election Day. Over the past few months, some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. have eagerly announced how they’re giving employees time off to vote. Twitter revealed in late June that, moving forward, Election Day would always be a paid holiday for its workers; all of its U.S. offices will be closed on November 3rd. In July, Apple also said it was giving all of its employees, including retail and hourly employees, up to four hours of paid time off — but, as with many other companies unveiling new policies, did not go so far as to make Election Day a full day off.Uber has said election days would be paid holidays around the world, not just in the U.S. Scott’s Cheap Flights is also making it a paid holiday so its employees can volunteer at the polls. Best Buy is opening its stores two hours later on November 3rd; Walmart’s store employees will get up to three hours of paid time; Pinterest is giving employees 8 hours of paid time for “civic engagement” that doesn’t necessarily have to be used on Election Day. Old Navy is giving store employees up to three hours to vote and paying them to volunteer as poll workers. Facebook also announced it would be giving employees paid time off to work the polls. Some NFL and NBA facilities are being used as voting sites. Many of these companies are giving paid time off to employees through an initiative called Time To Vote, which was started by Patagonia, PayPal, and Levi Strauss in 2018 as a way to increase voter turnout for the midterm elections. That year, some 400 companies joined Time To Vote and pledged to increase voter turnout among their employees. This year, over 1,100 companies are on board, including Ben & Jerry’s, Capital One, Coach, Dr. Bronner’s, Etsy, Fitbit, Glossier, Google, Instacart, J.Crew, JPMorgan Chase, Lululemon, Lyft, MTV, Nike, Poshmark, Reformation, Rent the Runway, Sephora, Shake Shack, Target, Ulta, Visa, Wells Fargo, and Zillow. It’s clear that the political unrest of 2020 has contributed to this surge in corporate enthusiasm for getting out the vote; companies have spent much of the year signaling to a skeptical public that they’re committed to doing the right thing — whether in their treatment of COVID-19 essential workers or by showing support for Black Lives Matter. J.J. Huggins, a spokesperson for Patagonia, says that there was a wave of companies becoming interested in Time To Vote after the murder of George Floyd. “People began organically connecting the dots between racial justice and voting, and fortunately people noticed that this program, Time To Vote, was already in existence,” he says. Time To Vote maintains, however, that it’s strictly non-partisan. It’s careful not to push for any legislation or policy — such as making Election Day a federal holiday, or any of a variety of election reforms that would make voting more accessible without the need for corporate benevolence. While it’s great that companies are encouraging turnout, it’s also clear that this can’t be anything more than a short-term bandaid. Voting is a right, not a generosity gifted to us by our bosses, and we need better ways to hold employers accountable when they’re not feeling generous, or when there isn’t a cultural moment for them to capitalize on. 28 states currently require employers to give some time off to vote, and many of these laws specify that employers only have to give two or three hours. In areas of Georgia, where early in-person voting has begun, some poll places had wait times over nine hours long. What’s more, voting time laws often aren’t properly enforced. Given this, it’s important to note that some companies participating in Time To Vote may just be fulfilling the minimum number of hours legally required of them rather than being particularly magnanimous. And of course, not every major corporation has publicly announced company-wide policies for time off on November 3rd. This week, thousands of Amazon employees signed an internal petition demanding the company give all of its U.S. employees time off to vote. In a statement to CNBC, Amazon said that individual employees may request time off if they need to. There’s some inherent queasiness to our ability to vote being cradled in the hands of employers. The idea that it’s professional to keep politics out of the workplace is usually pushed by employers who want to discourage workers from being too vocal, yet it’s more often the employer’s politics that affect the workplace, whether through the CEO’s explicitly shared views or company policies that more subtly perpetuate a political viewpoint. In the leadup to the 2012 elections, there were a slew of well-publicized reports on corporations influencing or demanding that their workers vote for a certain party or policy, even threatening their employees with layoffs if the right candidate didn’t win. And in many states, telling employees who to vote for isn’t strictly illegal — companies have the right to free speech. Corporations also express their political opinions through expensive lobbying efforts; in fact, the curbing of corporate power is an issue many voters want to see on the ballot box. A company’s voter turnout efforts may be non-partisan, but it shouldn’t obscure our recognition of the other very partisan ways they guide the future of the country. Uber and Lyft, for example, are offering discounted rides to the polls on Election Day — a helpful gesture especially for people whose polling sites aren’t nearby. But in the months leading up to the election, the two rideshare companies have been placing pop-up messages in their apps pushing both drivers and riders to support Proposition 22, a California ballot measure that would exempt rideshare companies from having to treat drivers as employees who would be protected by employment laws, which could spread to other states after California and which some legal experts have called “the most dangerous labor law” of our lifetime. Uber and Lyft, together with DoorDash, Postmates, and Instacart, have spent almost $200 million in their effort to drum up support for Prop 22. Companies that give employees time off to vote are often seen as “leaders” showing patriotic respect for the democratic process, without much mention of the fact that corporate power shapes our lives very undemocratically — determining whether we make a living wage, have affordable healthcare, or are able to live on the planet at all in the face of a climate crisis. Employers hold incredible power over workers, so much so that some working Americans basically live in modern-day company towns. Any effort that makes it easier for people to vote is a net good, but the reality that so many look to their boss for permission to engage in democracy isn’t exactly a cause for celebration. It is a political lesson, though — another reminder of how urgently we need to shift the balance of power between employees and employers. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?How To Vote Safely During COVID-19What You Need To Know About Voting EarlyHow Fashion Could Help Shape Voting In 2020How To Vote In 2020
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If there was ever a perfect time to reconsider everything you thought you understood about politics — from what purpose the police serves to what our history textbooks really teach us about racism — 2020 is that time. And, as we endure a particularly contentious election season, alongside the ongoing racial reckoning in America, the much-maligned history of the Electoral College should be at the forefront of our conversations. The Electoral College is one of those American institutions that most people in the country know exists, some people have a basic understanding of, but few actually know its origins — or could defend its continued existence. It’s something that is only ever really thought about once every four years, and yet is arguably the most important part of our current voting process, and responsible for the fact that two of the presidential elections in the last 20 years — in 2000 and 2016 — were won by the candidates with far fewer votes. Because, while the popular vote captures the will of the people, it’s the Electoral College is actually the ultimate decider of who wins the presidency. Before getting into the history of the Electoral College, here’s a primer in how it works: Every four years when we vote for president, we are actually voting for our state’s slate of electors, rather than directly deciding who will win. Each state is allotted electors based on the number of representatives it has in Congress, and those combined 538 electors formally decide who the president will be. A candidate needs an absolute majority of electors, meaning 270 or more, to win the Electoral College. And because all of a state’s electors go to one candidate, the presidential race most often comes down to several electors in one or two key states — swing states — which hold outsized power in the process relative to their population. Sounds pretty undemocratic, right? Sure, but this isn’t a “flaw” in the system, this is how it was intended to work. The Electoral College was built this way to protect and preserve the power of Southern states, whose official population counts were far lower than those in the North, because of the huge amount of disenfranchised people living in the South — that is, enslaved people. It didn’t have to be this way: When this country’s framers attended the Constitutional Convention and set out to decide how to elect a president, they discussed the idea of utilizing the popular vote to decide elections. But, Southerners worried that direct democracy would disadvantage slave-holding states. “The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections,” James Madison wrote in the Method of Appointing the Executive in 1787. The Electoral College was the compromise the founders settled on to appease the demands of Southern states worried their politics — or, more specifically, their desire to maintain the system of slavery — might be quashed. Its existence allowed Southern states — and their white male property-owning voters — to preserve their power in part due to the three-fifths clause in the Constitution, which stated that enslaved Black people would be counted as three-fifths of a person, thus bolstering the electoral count of slave-owning states without actually affording rights to anyone other than wealthy white men. It also gave disproportionate power to the Southern states. It’s no surprise, then, that eight of the first nine presidential races were won by Virginians; it was the most populous state at the time, with a huge slave population — even though it didn’t have the most enfranchised voters. “In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn’t vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount (the three-fifths clause), and that’s what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections,” Akhil Reed Amar, a professor of law and political science at Yale University, told Vox. Two centuries after its founding, the Electoral College continues to uphold white supremacy and disadvantage much of the electorate — particularly the Black people who live in Southern states, and whose votes are often overpowered by the will of electors, with most Southern states staying red in recent presidential elections. That’s why today, presidential candidates expend a significant amount of their effort on winning over states that hold the most influence, resulting in disproportionate attention paid to “swing” areas. To combat the electors’ ability to defy the people’s choice and vote for a candidate they preferred but who didn’t carry the popular vote in their state, the Supreme Court took matters into its own hands. In a unanimous ruling in July of this year, the highest court in the land decided that electors must support the will of the people. “The State instructs its electors that they have no ground for reversing the vote of millions of its citizens. That direction accords with the Constitution — as well as with the trust of a Nation that here, We the People rule,” Justice Elena Kagan stated in the ruling. Despite this, many states — including swing states like Florida and Ohio — have no legal requirements about how electors must vote. In his new book Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?, the Harvard historian Alexander Keyssar examines why the outdated system continues and explains how it still disempowers Black people today. Through his research on the attempts to abolish the system and champion the popular vote, Keyssar offers encouragement that there is hope for us to radically shift our democracy. Ultimately, Keyssar provides hope that mass movements of people can radically expand and change the way democracy works by demanding a reimagining of our governments. “I think that the resurgence of pro small ‘d’ democratic activism is very important now, and it’s hard to see that Electoral College reform would not be part of that,” Keyssar said in an interview with Mother Jones. Although there have been attempts to put an end to the Electoral College — more than 1,000 to be exact — with more recent shots in the dark including the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, clearly no one has yet succeeded in abolishing it. Considering its success in winning Republicans the election for George W. Bush in 2000 and for Trump in 2016, despite the fact that both candidates won fewer popular votes than their Democratic rivals, Republicans, in particular, have clung to the Electoral College as a necessary part of American democracy. It’s far from it. In 2020, it’s particularly important to understand the origins of the Electoral College and who it serves to keep in power, because the mass movements necessary for this reimagining of government are happening now. With Black Lives Matter protests — which have demanded the abolition of harmful systems like the prison industrial complex and the police force — there are more people pushing for change than ever before. Movements like these show that the power to defeat age-old systems that aren’t working anymore — and never worked for vulnerable, marginalized communities in the first place — is on the side of the people. No matter what happens in November, the movements that continue to build in cities across America, including Portland, New York, and Minneapolis, show that nothing is set in stone simply because of tradition and norms. With an insurgency of Americans who demand the popular vote as law, we could see racist systems like the Electoral College come toppling down sooner rather than later. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Republicans Are Creating Fake Ballot Drop BoxesWhy Twitter Wants Us To Boycott Trump's Town HallWhat Could Go Wrong With The Election? Everything
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There are a few steps you should take before, while, and after you vote.