BY JIM DOYLE
Last year, when President Trump tried to suppress the vote in neighborhoods that lean Democrat, America’s most respected companies helped their employees in these same neighborhoods register and gave them time off to vote. When Trump called the 2020 election rigged, these companies stood by the lawful result. And, today, as Republican state legislatures introduce bills to suppress votes in future elections, we can count on these CEOs to do the right thing once again. They’re not partisans or liberals. They’re simply good at math, protective of their communities and the rule of law, and too experienced in managing real-world problems to believe social media misinformation.
Last year, Business Forward helped train nearly 500,000 entrepreneurs, executives, and small business owners how to help their employees register and vote. We also conducted briefings on voter suppression, voter fraud, and the challenges related to voting during a pandemic. Through these events, we learned a lot about how business leaders look at voting — and why they never bought Trump’s “big lie.”
First, business leaders can do the math. Trump falsely claimed “millions” of fraudulent ballots in Los Angeles County alone, and Republican groups like True the Vote claim up to 5 percent of ballots are fake. The most recent and comprehensive investigations by U.S. election officials (including Republicans) examined nearly 12 million ballots across five states. It found possible improper voting in only 0.001% of ballots. The difference between 5.000% and 0.001% is a factor of 5,000, and successful business owners understand when you exaggerate a foot by a factor of 5,000, it becomes a mile, literally.
Second, executives are less likely to believe voter fraud claims because they use many of the same security technologies to manage their companies’ supply chains. Trump’s claim that foreign countries counterfeited millions of ballots never made much sense to business leaders because each city or county produces its own ballots, with specific paper stock and color, security envelopes, return envelopes, bar codes, and time stamps. Ballots are numbered and bar-coded, so they can’t be counted twice. A business leader who must track her inventory as it moves from factory to customer over rail, truck, and post is more likely to be skeptical of Trump’s claims.
Third, business leaders appreciate the importance of making it easier to vote because they understand how tough it can be for Americans to find time to vote. A good manager understands the challenges facing her employees taking night courses, raising a family, or working a second job. If she manages an employee who struggles with a long commute to the office, she learns to appreciate his difficulty in getting to a polling place located miles away from his home. Similarly, an executive managing younger workers understands how often they move (and need to re-register). Business leaders’ real-world experience with a diverse workforce makes them more likely to support pro-voter reforms that make participating in our democracy more accessible to all Americans.
Fourth, business leaders count on the “rule of law” more than you know. Our assets and exports enjoy an advantage that comes from America being a reliable place to do business. But our premium as one of the world’s few safe havens could deteriorate. Voter suppression undermines trust in the system and makes further corruption more likely. If bureaucracy is bad for business, corrupt bureaucracy is fatal. Entrepreneurs are particularly concerned about the rule of law, because corruption tends to benefit entrenched interests, and entrepreneurs are all about disruption.
Fifth, business leaders understand how their city competes with other cities for investment and new jobs. A Fortune 500 firm deciding where to open its next factory looks for a talented workforce, good schools, sound infrastructure, and a strong community. Strong communities are inclusive, not segregated. And business leaders know inclusive workplaces perform better. Diverse companies are better at developing new products, attracting talent, and reaching new markets. Similarly, diverse and inclusive communities tend to attract more talent, investment, and jobs. If you disenfranchise voters, you undermine your community’s economic competitiveness. And, once you start losing out on new factories, it gets harder to win the next one. You can’t just talk about diversity; you need to deliver it.
Finally, most CEOs recognize the racism and prejudice behind extreme voter suppression claims and tactics, and they want no part of it. For most Americans, work is the most diverse part of our day, which is why CEOs appreciate diversity and inclusion in a way that a typical politician never will. Let Fox News pundits deride inclusion as “cancel culture.” CEOs are too busy holding town-hall meetings back at headquarters, trying to bring their employees closer. And there is no more personal or productive way to show you care than to help your employees (and your customers) vote.
Jim Doyle is President of Business Forward, a bipartisan network of more than 100,000 entrepreneurs, investors, small business owners, and executives working to end gridlock in Washington.