One game developer's quest to make Election Day more equitable - Technical.ly Philly

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Aug. 29, 2016 7:22 am

One game developer’s quest to make Election Day more equitable

Cipher Prime cofounder Dain Saint has a new project: Free The Vote. The initiative aims to get workers time off to go vote on Election Day.

Dain Saint, pictured here in the now-defunct Philly Game Forge.

(Photo by Juliana Reyes)

Last July, Dain Saint finally had a chance to breathe after the Philly Game Forge shut down.

As the door finally shut on the coworking space for Philly game devs — founded by himself and Will Stallwood — Saint took a long, hard look at all the insanity that had been going on in 2016.

“I realized I now had the time to do something about it, and that’s how We Can Be Better came about, which is a philosophical movement promoting hope and action,” Saint said.

“We have a responsibility to be the change we want to see,” Saint wrote in July in an inaugural Medium post for the project.

As a concrete step within the more abstract We Can Be Better, came Free The Vote, the movement’s first project (be sure to check out its stylish website, put together by Stallwood just last week).

In a nutshell, the project wants to actively engage companies to allow their workers to have Election Day off to go perform their civic duty or, at the very least, offer them a few hours of paid leave to comfortably do so. Our sister site, Technical.ly DC, has covered a similar effort: Take Off Election Day.

“Election Day is inconvenient for a lot of people,” said Saint. “The main reason being that it’s on a Tuesday.”

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Oh, and in case you didn’t know, there’s no legally binding reason to hold elections on Tuesday. If you can believe it, the tradition harkens back to when people traveled by buggies and couldn’t ride on the Sabbath. Here’s a quick explainer from WhyTuesday.org:

Saint wants to start big by signing up the biggest employer in Philly: the City of Philadelphia. “I would love to get the City on board with this initiative.” (Mayoral spokeswoman Lauren Hitt told Technical.ly there is currently no policy in place that lets city workers take time off on Election Day. This was also confirmed by the Commerce Department’s Rebecca Lopez-Kriss.)

The organization is also supporting legislative proposals to increase freedom to vote, like this bill sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Now, employees like me, with the ability to take a couple of hours of personal time — with approval from team leaders — we have it easy.

But how are things looking for people near the poverty line working in the service sector? They don’t likely have any “flex-time” policies in place. And they are likely the ones who would benefit the most from a healthy democratic system.

“Most jobs in the tech scene, for example, have a certain flexibility,” said Saint. “But what about the single mother working at Wendy’s who also has to take her kids to school? She’s going to have to make the choice between making three hours pay and voting. And that’s not a choice somebody should have to make.”

Saint is aware that absentee ballots might be offered as an alternative by those who wish to cast this issue aside. But, he wonders, should voters really have to resort to this resource? And should it be so hard?

Maybe, as the initiative’s motto boldly reads: work can wait.

Employers willing to back this project can contact Free The Vote at team@freethevote.org.

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