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Michigan businesses encouraged to give workers time to vote

MACKINAC ISLAND — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson hopes a new partnership with Michigan businesses can strengthen faith in democracy and boost engagement in the upcoming election in which the battleground state could once again decide the presidency and find itself at the center of efforts to subvert the results.

Benson said her office’s new partnership with the Detroit Regional Chamber — one of the largest chambers of commerce in the country — will call on businesses to provide paid time off for their employees to vote, encourage their employees to to serve as poll workers and use their websites and mailings to provide accurate election information.

“We’re here today because a healthy economy requires a healthy democracy. The two go hand in hand,” Benson said during a press briefing on Mackinac Island where the Detroit Regional Chamber holds its annual policy conference this week.

“In today’s environment of polarization, tribalism, misinformation, it is business leaders that have a growing role to serve as the voice of reason and sources of fact,” said the chamber’s President Sandy Baruah. The chamber’s members include large companies and small start-ups throughout Southeast Michigan.

Benson hopes that other companies that employ Michigan workers could follow in the footsteps of the chamber’s members. She said her office is also working with national leaders to reach workers at national chains such as McDonald’s to ensure workers paid a minimum wage also have paid time off to participate in the election.

Since 2020, Benson has built a national profile speaking out against former President Trump’s disinformation campaign to overturn the election four years ago.

Heading into the 2022 election, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Political Action Committee backed some Republican candidates who cast doubt on the 2020 election and sought to delay the certification of the results. Asked about concerns she may have about those endorsements, Benson cited the chamber’s opposition to any GOP legislation that would make it harder to vote. She said the chamber’s stance “really speaks volumes for their position in supporting democracy in our state.”

Leading up to the last election, the chamber asked candidates about a GOP-led Michigan Senate investigation into the 2020 election that rejected Trump’s claims it was stolen from him, according to the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Vice President for Government Relations Brad Williams. The answers to that questionnaire aren’t public, but all of the candidates endorsed by the chamber’s PAC stood by the Senate report, Williams said.

Whitmer: With ‘close race’ in Michigan, Biden can’t take a vote for granted

A recent Detroit Regional Chamber poll found about 68% of Michigan voters are dissatisfied with the condition of democracy in the U.S.

“It’s hard to believe that we’re in a place right now where we need to champion the cause of democracy, but here we are,” said Carla Walker-Miller, the CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services, LLC and a founding member of the new “Michigan Business United for Elections Coalition.”

She said democracy is good for business, “Because when everyone’s voices are heard, the interests of our residents, our team members, our customers and our businesses are represented in our government.”

Contact Clara Hendrickson at chendrickson@freepress.com or 313-296-5743. Follow her on X, previously called Twitter, @clarajanehen.

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