How business can help insure a smooth election
By Michael Kieschnick
President of CREDO mobile
Nov 4, 2008, 00:18
With Election Day today, despite this year�s high profile
presidential race, millions of Americans will not vote -- and hundreds of
thousands of votes that are cast will not be counted.
Some people don�t know that they can ask for time off from
work to vote. Others do not know where to vote. Early reports of long lines and
equipment malfunctions may keep some voters home altogether. Incidents of voter
suppression may lead millions of voters to find their votes challenged and not
Yet each vote not cast and not counted diminishes the
strength of our democracy.
How is this the business community�s business? Many
companies involve themselves in elections to gain a competitive advantage. A
rare few speak out on issues of fundamental importance to their employees and
customers, such as Patagonia on the environment or Apple on same-sex marriage.
But there is much more that can be done easily, effectively and efficiently by
the business community, to help prevent a bumpy election.
First, every company could send an e-mail to every one of
its customers to encourage them to vote. A reminder to vote can be easily put
into every online sales transaction confirmation and in-person receipt. Remind
all employees that your company supports his or her right to vote and assure
them this means that they can take time off from work to do so. Give everyone
who works at your company a copy of a sample ballot or nonpartisan voter guide.
And help answer the most common question -- where do I vote? -- by widely
distributing the nonpartisan, online resource, www.govote.org.
Make sure you signal your company�s commitment to its civic
duty to ensure a fair election in every part of your organizational chart.
Encourage your managers to instruct your customer service staff and
receptionists to close every conversation with a friendly reminder to vote.
Offer to lend company vehicles -- even the CEO�s limo, if you have one -- to
local organizations that offer rides to polling places for those without
transportation. And urge your company�s lawyers to volunteer with the
nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition, a group of attorneys and volunteers
ready to answer questions to help voters having difficulty voting at the polls.
Good corporate citizens� civic duty doesn�t end with
Election Day. Ask your employees if they experienced any trouble when they
tried to vote and, if so, find out the nature of their difficulties. As soon as
you learn of any irregularities, speak out as a business leader against any
form of voter suppression.
To do our part to ensure fair elections in the United States
far beyond the one today, I call on other business leaders and citizens alike
to join us in a call for universal voter registration. Today�s technology and
civic sophistication should make voter registration an automatic public
function, much the way we already handle other basic public functions in our
democracy, such as issuing Social Security numbers or driver�s licenses. Voter
registration should be open to every eligible citizen, not a political tug of
We have found that our customers appreciate our efforts like
these and like hearing from us on matters of civic importance. If every
company, just for one day, added a few lines of code to every e-mail and a few
words to every sales call or customer service transaction, it would cost
essentially nothing. But the gift to our democracy would be priceless.
Michael Kieschnick is
president of CREDO Mobile, a San Francisco phone carrier committed to building
a just and sustainable world, whose online tools helped more than 3 million
U.S. voters complete voter registration applications since 2003.
original version of this article appeared on page B -- 5 of the San Francisco Chronicle
on Monday, November 3, 2008.
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