Updated: September 23, 2020 06:26 PM
Created: September 23, 2020 05:35 PM
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota announced Wednesday that it will make Election Day a paid company holiday, starting this year.
"We want our folks to be able to vote safely without any barriers or restrictions," said President and CEO Craig Samitt. "This isn't just a one-year deal for us. We'll be doing this in even-numbered years to coincide with federal and state elections."
The decision impacts the entire workforce of 3,500 workers across the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota system.
"My first reaction was, 'Thank you,' that's really generous," said Jill Lantto, who has worked as an RN case manager at the company for 11 years. "This is one perfect example of making it easier for people."
Blue Cross said it will remain open on Nov. 3 with "appropriate staffing in place to ensure business continuity and to assist members." Associates in essential roles will receive holiday pay, per company policy.
The Eagan-based organization is part of a growing list of companies moving to make Election Day more accessible. The nonpartisan Civic Alliance includes 221 companies nationwide, including Minnesota-based Target and Best Buy.
Best Buy announced last week that it will not open its stores until noon on Nov. 3 for the first time ever, to give employees extra time to cast their ballots. The company is also giving paid time off to employees who volunteer to work at the polls on Election Day, to help address a nationwide shortage of election judges.
"I see this as a positive trend," said Christina Ewig, a professor of public affairs at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. "I think that these are two corporate leaders in the Minnesota context, so they could be quite influential on other workplaces in our state."
Ewig said it's unclear if or how these decisions would impact the overall election results.
"We don't have specific kinds of polling within particular corporations showing what the political breakdown might be," Ewig explained. "But I think that facilitating voting helps both sides of the aisle, helps all political parties."
Ewig said she supports these steps by the private sector but would like to see more movement on the federal level as well.
"We are one of the few countries in the world that holds an election during a typical workday, on a Tuesday, rather than on a Saturday or a Sunday or providing a holiday," Ewig said. "It is difficult for many families, many adults, in the current way in which our voting is structured."
Samitt said he hopes Blue Cross employees will take the time, not only to vote but to participate in the election process by working the polls.
"Our organization is all about health, and research has shown that communities that have active civic engagement tend to be healthier, so who better than us to lead by example," Samitt said.
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