Political activists have set their sights on recruiting America’s CEOs and corporate boards in their attempt to weaken voting safeguards. They are organizing pressure campaigns and threatening boycotts to get the Fortune 500 CEOs to weigh in against popular voting laws that make it easy to vote, hard to cheat and bolster confidence in democracy.
Executives are feeling the heat. The woke mob is a PR nightmare. It can be tempting to back them just to make them go away. But when self-styled voting rights champions proclaim they are fighting so-called discriminatory policies pushed by their political opponents, weighing in can seem like an imperative. C-suite executives would be wise to hit pause.
The debate they are being driven to join has long been marred by rhetoric designed to stoke outrage, elevate narratives, ignore inconvenient facts, and stifle debate. Progressive protestors are pushing an agenda and it is out of touch with an overwhelming majority of Americans.
Most people, on the left and the right, want commonsense voting laws that make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat. To the average citizen, voter ID laws, absentee ballot safeguards, and clear voting rules are necessary parts of a fair, secure, and accessible election. In fact, according to a recent HEP Action poll, 77 percent of voters want everyone to show a photo ID when they vote, and 66 percent want that requirement applied to absentee ballots, too.
Activists claim that ID laws suppress minority voters and erect impenetrable barriers to the ballot box. They are willfully ignoring the nearly two-thirds of Black voters and more than three-quarters of Hispanics who want photo ID laws and reject the notion that showing one is a "burden." Organizers may claim to speak for them but seem more interested in using them.
Researchers have long debunked the claims that ID laws hinder turnout. Two-thirds of states have an ID law, a fact which did not stop 2018 and 2020 from setting records for the most diverse electorates in history.
Small wonder, then that protestors and politicians attack reforms like the new voting law in Georgia in -- misleading and vague terms. After all, Georgia lawmakers expanded early voting to 17 days, plus two optional Sundays for "Souls to the Polls"—more days of early voting than President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware, or Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer’s native New York.
Georgia also added an ID requirement to absentee ballots, tackled chronic long lines at urban polls, empowered nonpartisan officials to provide water to voters, and codified ballot drop boxes for the first time.
These are popular policies that will improve the voting experience for all Georgians. Progressives labeled Georgia’s law "Jim Crow 2.0" precisely because its laws were too reasonable and too broadly supported to attack them on their merits.
This is the unfortunate pattern that the voting rights debate has taken for years. Good-faith efforts to advance principled policies are met with fact-free hyperbole and politicized recriminations, or worse: outright falsehoods. The Washington Post awarded four Pinocchios to President Biden for repeatedly telling the country, falsely, that Georgia is closing polls early to prevent working people from voting.
Then there are the moments of blatant hypocrisy. Case in point: Stacey Abrams—who claims her 2018 election was stolen—demonized Georgia’s Republican-led effort as "Jim Crow in a suit and tie," then praised New Jersey Democrats for a new law offering eight fewer days of early voting.
Progressives stoked the outrage, and are now using it to justify an unprecedented federal drive to fundamentally change voting practically overnight, risking chaos. Then there is HR1 also know as the "For the People Act" making its way through Congress. It is passed the House and is currently in the Senate.
The bill would replace popular election laws like voter ID with immensely unpopular ones, like organized ballot trafficking.
Congressional Democrats titled the bill the "For the People Act," but many seem eager to reject it in spite of them. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently signaled its strong opposition.
Cynical tactics like this put our democracy in jeopardy. Elections work when they can convince the losing side that their defeat was fair. When voting rules become political footballs or partisan wedge issues, trust and confidence in elections wanes, and their legitimacy suffers.
What American voters need now is a restoration of trust. We cannot afford another chaotic, COVID-style election, or the continued slide towards the politicization of the voting process itself. If we go down that path, distrust in the democratic system will harden into apathy, disengagement, and discord. Corporate leaders know that democracy and capitalism go hand-in-hand; instability in one will spill over to the other.
The question we face is how to reverse this trend and bolster confidence in our elections? As the HEP Action poll makes clear, by a three-to-one margin, voters want to enhance voting safeguards to bolster confidence, rather than eliminate them to make voting "easier."
We should give voters what they want: an election system that is inclusive and secure, backed up by voter ID laws, absentee ballot protections, and clear rules that do not change in the middle of voting. Voting policy should be freely debated, fairly adopted, and always make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.
America’s CEOs can play a crucial role here: By embracing facts and principles, they can choose to elevate the conversation--or they can accept the snake oil being sold to them by political activists to further our divisions and partisanship.
For the sake of our democracy, we must hope that truth will prevail.
Jason Snead is executive director of the Honest Elections Project.