Why do we accept living in a society where voting is so difficult?
I like to ask people about basic expectations from government officials – what are the handful of things that government absolutely must deliver on? Responses are surprisingly similar: keep us safe, keep it fair, and defend the constitution. The foundation of the constitution is our voting system. We can debate the effectiveness of an elected official, but our constitutional right to vote gives us the power of accountability, and we can kick out those who don’t deliver on safety and equity.
So the next question is “how is that working out for us”? At Southwire, a wire and cable manufacturing company that my father founded in rural Georgia, the answer is, “we can do better.” We believe that voting should not be so difficult, and we aim to play a role in making it easier. My father would regularly prompt us to “do what one wo/man can” to solve big problems. For the first time in our company’s 70-year history, Southwire will be instrumental in setting up an early voting station adjacent to our campus in Carrollton, Georgia. This early voting station will be open to the entire public.
The American system of democracy, based on one person, one vote, is perhaps our greatest gift to the world. However, unlike many of our global peers who have adopted our democracy model, America still struggles to get everyone to vote in a way that is safe, easy and effective. We allowed women in the poll booth in 1919, and people of color finally had this right protected with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, the U.S. still ranks 26th out of 32 developed democracies in the percentage of eligible voters who participate in elections.
Today, many companies are stepping forward with ideas to solve this problem. At Southwire, we are focused on strengthening society and building goodwill among employees, consumers, and the public; voting falls right in line with these efforts. Even as the global health crisis threatens the accessibility of this year’s elections, we, as citizens must remember that voting is the lifeblood of our democracy. It is a hard-won right and privilege that should never go unclaimed in America. Southwire will continue to make it a priority to provide accommodations to our 7,000 employees across the United States so they will have the resources and flexibility to vote, allowing them to participate directly in the very democracy that drives their own economic and social opportunities.
Internally, we have formed a team of employee volunteers to drive a get-out-the-vote campaign, “TAKE CHARGE: VOTE 2020.” This team will plan voter awareness events for our employees for voter engagement. On November 3rd, Southwire employees will have the opportunity to vote, and the day will be designated as an official “day of no meetings.” We have also teamed up with two nonpartisan organizations, Time to Vote and Rock the Vote, to provide a technology platform and content for our voter awareness campaign. These partnerships will provide employees with resources to build a personal voting plan ahead of this year’s election.
The stakes in this election are existential. America’s great idea was the promise of a democracy that supposes we can govern ourselves to adequately meet the risks we face in the world. It all starts by making voting as easy and inclusive as possible. Southwire is playing our part to support that effort this November, and we invite other businesses to join us in “TAKE CHARGE: VOTE 2020”.
Nancy Richards Farese is an owner and board member of Southwire Co., a family owned business located in Carrollton, Georgia.