The burden of taking time off work and paying for transportation to the polls can make voting inaccessible for many Americans. And as neighborhood polls are increasingly consolidated, resulting in fewer, larger voting centers, some voters have to travel quite far to cast their ballots, or can’t make the journey at all.
But this year, some voters may be able to get to the polls for free or at a reduced cost. For today’s midterm elections, many ride-hailing apps are offering discounted or free transportation to polling stations: Voters who use Lyft can get 50 percent off rides to the polls (for up to $5) or a free ride if they are in an underserved community, while Uber is offering $10 off a single ride to the polls.
Scooters and e-bikes are also capitalizing on the Election Day rush. E-scooter company Lime is offering free rides for the day, and bike-sharing operator Motivate (owned by Lyft), is offering free bike rentals in cities it services, including Citibike in New York City, Nice Ride Minnesota, Ford GoBike in the Bay Area, and Divvy in Chicago. Scooter company Skip is offering $5 off trips to the polls, as well. (All of these deals require coupon codes.)
Many of the offers today are made in partnership with nonprofit voting organizations. Uber is partnering with Democracy Works, while Lyft is partnering with a number of organizations including Voto Latino, local Urban League affiliates, the National Federation of the Blind, Faith in Action, League of Women Voters, and the Student Vets of America.
Public transit authorities are also offering free rides today in the spirit of getting people to vote: The Los Angeles Metro system will offer free train and bus rides on Election Day, while transit agencies in Dallas, Houston, and Tampa are doing the same.
According to a study by CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), 29 percent of Americans between the age of 19 and 29 cited lack of transportation as a reason for not voting in the 2016 election. The study reports that 35 percent of non-college-educated voters and 19 percent of college-educated voters said they had no way to get to their polling place. The study also found that 38 percent of youths of color and 27 percent of white youths found transportation a challenge.
This year, however, voters could possibly get a free ride, leading some to tweet that there is now “no excuse” not to vote. Celebrities like Debra Messing and Bobby Berk have tweeted out Lyft’s deal, and those using the services are sharing their own experiences taking a bike or car to the polls. Drivers are also advertising their service, as one Facebook post from a driver read: “Civic duty performed and 4 hours of giving people a Lyft to vote makes you feel good.”
Making it easy for people to vote isn’t something brands have historically cared about, particularly regarding their employees. But as the obstacles of voting become a more widely recognized issue, companies are piloting practices that allow their workers to engage in the political process. Stores like Levis and North Face are giving their employees time off to vote, while Patagonia is closing its headquarters and Eileen Fisher is starting its workday two hours later than usual.
For many Americans, voting can be difficult or inaccessible, but a free ride could solve a small part of the issue. And brands don’t mind getting credit for aligning themselves with the issues people care about right now.