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With a nod to the Black Sheep’s 1991 classic, elections are about choices – and there are plenty of big issues on the ballot this year, from Washington DC to the Statehouse on West Washington Street. It’s been sweltering out this week, but we can report that your Indy Chamber Business Action Committee (BAC) has also been turning up the heat, grilling candidates about their support for our pro-growth, inclusive economic development agenda. We’ll share many of our key BAC endorsements next week.

But first we need to talk about voting, and making sure your choices count on November 3rd.

Nothing about 2020 has been easy, and this election won’t be an exception. We like to repeat the old adage that “politics isn’t a spectator sport” – but politics in the midst of a pandemic demands even more teamwork and a solid gameplan.

Plan the Vote
‘90s kids will remember the launch of ‘Rock the Vote’ on MTV; our version doesn’t slap but makes more sense given our current circumstances…guaranteeing a safe, well-run election to cast your vote will take planning. This year, exercising your rights could be real workout – here’s what you can do to get ready:

Check Yourself: First and foremost, make sure you’re registered – check your status at https://indianavoters.in.gov/, then pass it along for family, friends, colleagues and employees. Take a moment to do it now, because there’s still time to get registered if you aren’t – the deadline is October 5th.

Mailing It In: (we don’t mean vote casually – just the opposite) You’ve heard a lot about mail-in voting and the semantic distinctions with absentee ballots…while Indiana hasn’t embraced universal or truly ‘no excuse’ mail-in voting, election officials are broadly interpreting the existing exceptions to offer most Hoosier the ability to vote absentee by mail with enough notice.

The deadline for the County Clerk to receive your absentee ballot application is October 22nd (drop it in the mail by October 19th) – but if you’ve been watching the news lately, let’s just agree not to procrastinate on this: To submit your online application, go back to https://indianavoters.in.gov and select ‘Vote by Mail’ under the Apply Online/Print Forms menu.

Beat the Crowds: Voting early is another great way to avoid long lines at the polls on Election Day. Early voting will be available October 6th through November 2nd with limited locations but weekday, evening and weekend hours available to fit your schedule.

Old School: And of course, you can always be old school – show up and cast your ballot on November 3rd.  Marion County has approved 188 voting centers (including Lucas Oil Stadium, though don’t expect to run your best T.Y. Hilton hitch route on the way to the booth – in fact, don’t plan on moving very quickly at all…more on this in a minute). Polling places will be open from 6:00am-6:00pm; check the locations (https://vote.indy.gov/vote-centers/) and remember, you can go to any location to vote, just bring your I.D.

Uber and Lyft are even offering free rides to vote centers on election day. But even though you can avoid surge pricing, surging interest in the elections may present other challenges: Be ready for long lines. Wear your mask, bring bottled water and a snack, consider grabbing a folding chair if you have trouble being on your feet for long periods of time. This election is unlike any we’ve experienced before, so preparation and patience will be key.

Corporate Citizenship:
From flattening the COVID curve to confronting the consequences of injustice and systemic racism, we’re all thinking more about the common good and our contributions to it as responsible citizens. We believe the business community has a crucial role to play in creating a more equitable, inclusive region – and this election season offers important opportunities to do more.

Making a plan to vote safely and confidently – and making time to do so – is especially challenging for working families that may be dealing with unexpected economic hardships, remote learning, the pressures of daily life in a global pandemic. Local government is under pressure too, to organize and staff a smooth election process amid all this turmoil.

Consider a few ways you could create a more civic-minded workplace:

  • Pass along the information we’ve shared here to your employees – how to register and check your registration, to vote early or by mail, and find a voting center to get ready for November 3rd;
  • Offer the day off or flexible work schedules on election day;
  • Encourage your employees to consider becoming poll workers (and give them the time off to do so).

This last point is critical: We face a chronic shortage of poll workers to run this historic election; many of our most dependable volunteers are older Hoosiers who are vulnerable to COVID. If anything, the circumstances defining this election day – social distancing in a high-turnout presidential election year – demand more staffing as our county clerks struggle to cover the basics.

Learn more about how you and your workforce can help at https://indy.pollchief.com/pollaccess/.

It’s been a long time, we shouldn’t have left you…
Before wrapping this up, we have to admit – it’s been a while since we hit you with an advocacy update. With 66 days until the election and then another two months until the General Assemble reconvenes, expect to hear from us more often. But we haven’t spent this summer of social distancing watching Netflix and figuring out how to unmute ourselves on Zoom.

As mentioned earlier, our Business Advocacy Committee has been hard at work deliberating on candidate endorsements. We’ll share our slate of state candidates next week.

Since April, we’ve also focused on building partnerships locally and regionally to deploy resources for employers and the growing number of workers displaced by the COVID public health crisis. It’s been “all hands on deck” here at the Chamber.

We’ve worked with the City of Indianapolis and other partners to create Rapid Response Loans, to address the cash flow challenges of small businesses that were being left out of other programs, and helped put Indy-area companies on a faster-track to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds with the City and metro non-profit lender Bankable. For the last three months, we’ve offered Ready to Restart grants, which reimburse up to $5,000 for equipment and supplies needed for a safer workplace.

We could go on, but information on these and other resources are still available at https://www.response.indychamber.com/, where we’ve also been dropping knowledge – answering your questions about doing business during this unprecedented time, and convening experts for thought-provoking discussions of the most relevant issues through our ‘Virtual Town Hall’ series.

Suffice it to say that as the economy shifted into neutral, we picked up the pace on behalf of our members. And it isn’t just your Chamber – we’ve seen the public, private and philanthropic sectors come together with the community as a whole to combat the coronavirus. The fight isn’t over yet, but we’re glad to be in this together, on the same team.

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