Corporations did their part to educate and encourage voters in the run-up to Election Day 2020, only to find their efforts undercut by the false cries of election fraud issued from former U.S. President Donald Trump along with other Republican Party leaders and their allies. Two years later, CEOs have a chance to stop the lies cold, reaffirm that every vote counts equally in U.S. elections, and take on any lies about what's become known as the "voter mirage."
During the 2020 election cycle, former President Trump launched an unprecedented attack on U.S. elections. His nonstop braying about voter fraud went far beyond general fear-mongering. It had a specific purpose.
The voter fraud canard dovetails with Republican-instigated efforts to make it more difficult for Democratic-leaning voters to vote on Election Day. To help counteract those efforts, Democratic campaigns encouraged their voters to use early voting and vote-by-mail wherever available to cast their vote in 2020.
Meanwhile, though, Republican leadership encouraged their voters to vote in person on Election Day.
The result was the “Red Mirage” effect. Votes on the Republican side added up as soon as the polls closed on Election Day 2020, as voting machine tallies were quickly recorded. In contrast, it takes days to count mail-in ballots. President Joe Biden’s winning tally was not confirmed until the following Saturday.
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The emphasis on Election Day voting provided former President Trump and his allies with all the more ammunition to scream about voter fraud, because the tally on Election Eve 2020 seemed to indicate a Republican victory that was just a mirage.
The real winners emerged days later, after all votes were counted equally. However, by then the damage was done. The official tally provided President Biden with a wide margin of victory over his opponent, but that only fed into the cacophony of lies about voter fraud and claims about the voter mirage, culminating in the violent insurrection of January 6, 2021.
If corporate leaders thought January 6 marked the end of the threat to the peaceful transfer of power, they were badly mistaken. The voter mirage canard continues to grow in force, and so have Republican efforts to discourage early voting in favor of a large, partisan turnout on Election Day.
In fact, the effort has reached a new level of intensity. Republican strategists are now encouraging their electorate to vote only on Election Day. They are also encouraging Republican voters to vote later on Election Day. The emphasis on late-day voting will all but certainly create longer-than-normal lines as Election Day draws to a close. That will feed anger and confusion, raising the potential for disruption and violence at polling places.
Last week, the organization Maryland Matters reported on one such effort:
Campaigns usually encourage supporters to vote early. Not Michael Peroutka, the Republican candidate for state attorney general.
In a video that surfaced over the weekend, a top Peroutka aide encouraged supporters to arrive two hours before the polls close on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
“Vote on November 8th as late in the day as possible,” said campaign coordinator Macky Stafford. “If everyone could stand in long, long lines at 6 o’clock, that would actually help us.”
“In an email to supporters — whom she dubbed ‘Freedom Lovers, Truth Warriors & Soon-to-be-Winners’ — on Monday, Stafford cautioned against using the state’s 96 early voting centers,” Maryland Matters observed, adding that the email attributed to Stafford also advised voters that “the attorneys helping us have advised us all to vote as late in the day on Tuesday the 8th as possible.”
The Stafford email also exhorted late-day voters to use paper ballots instead of voting machines, further adding to the potential for longer-than-normal lines as the polls close on Election Day, fostering even more chaos and confusion.
“Let’s all pray we wait in historically long lines and while we are standing in line, inform fellow voters to only vote on paper once in the polls: no touch screens!” Stafford wrote, as further reported by Maryland Matters.
Adding fuel to the Election Day fire in 2022 is the historic pattern of midterm elections, in which the party holding the White House typically loses control of Congress. Over and above any nefarious attempts to game the system, the Democratic Party would naturally be assumed to lose control of Congress in this election cycle (the most recent exception to this rule occurred in 2002).
That certainly seemed to be the case earlier this year, as indicated by public opinion polls. However, the 2022 election cycle has been anything but natural. If the reversal of Roe v. Wade and Democratic turnout efforts add up to defeat for Republican candidates, their voters will remain unconvinced that the election was free and fair, and they will be more primed for violence than ever before.
If preventing illegal voter suppression and forestalling violence is more difficult in 2022 than in 2020, corporate leaders are in for their share of the blame. In 2020, they failed to follow through on the central messages of their get-out-the-vote campaigns after Election Day: that every vote counts, equally.
In addition, the 6-3 Republican-appointed majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has already thrown the American workforce into chaos through its decision in the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case, which overturned Roe, and that is just a hint of the potential for damage to the economy if the Republican Party wins control of Congress.
The midterm elections offer another chance to get it right – that is, if it’s not too late.
If the Democratic Party does retain control of Congress after all the votes are counted, corporate leaders need to be ready with public service announcements, ad campaigns, employee outreach, civic engagement and every tool at their disposal to affirm the outcome of a free and fair election. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option.
Image credit: Edmond Dantès via Pexels
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.