This is an election year with a vitality buoyed by the ongoing pandemic, economic recession, a renewed spotlight on racial injustice—and topped off with the sitting president already crying voter fraud over the predicted spike in voting by mail.
There’s plenty to get voters to the polls, but as past elections have only proven, a large number of Americans simply don’t end up there, especially the younger electorate set. In 2016, the last presidential election, only 46.1 percent of 18-29-year-olds voted, and the election was won by only 80,000 votes.
Brands across sectors, including technology, retail, entertainment, are eager to get young citizens registered to vote and get their ballots in early this year. Voting merchandise has quickly become a trend, some brands are paying employees to work the polls or building voter registration microsites and, for many, messaging is being developed with inclusivity and diversity in mind.
Patagonia is placing tags in its latest line of women's and men's shorts, reading “Vote the assholes out” in block lettering. It has been a catchphrase of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard for years, according to the company, and speaks of politicians from any party who deny or disregard the climate crisis. Chouinard founded the 1% for the Planet community in 2002, which commits one percent of Patagonia’s annual sales to the environment.
“We have been standing up to climate deniers for almost as long as we’ve been making those shorts,” said the company in a statement. The shorts are regenerative organic certified, which meet standards for animal welfare, farmworker fairness and soil health.
“Remember, vote the assholes out—all of those politicians who don't believe we should do anything about climate change,” wrote Chouinard in a blog post for the 1% for the Planet community at the start of the pandemic. “Vote for the planet and against those who would do nothing. We have the power and now is the time to use it.”
Beyond the shorts, Patagonia has a number of ways it's working to get people to the polls. Patagonia is one of the founding members, along with PayPal and Levi Strauss, of Time to Vote, a nonpartisan coalition that aims to remove barriers to voting by having companies pay their employees to go to the polls. Time to Vote now has 882 members, with more than 700 companies signing up this past year, including Ben & Jerry’s, Bank of America, Nike, Macy’s, Lego, Unilever and others.
Like many of the companies that have joined Time to Vote, Patagonia will close its headquarters and shops on Election Day so Patagonia employees can serve as poll workers. The company is also partnering with local nonprofits in the 20 states where it has retail stores to share information about voting policies and answer voter questions, and has partnered with nonprofits Power the Polls, More Than a Vote and the Georgia Youth Poll Worker Project to recruit poll workers.
On its website, Patagonia is encouraging people to elect climate leaders to senate and has a state map of senate races to watch. It's also promoting its upcoming documentary "Public Trust," about how public lands play a large part in the climate crisis.