IN THE EVENT of a contested election, with misinformation campaigns targeting the media, threats or eruptions of social violence, and confusing political maneuvers at the state and federal levels, trusted faith-based institutions and leaders serve as intermediaries to synthesize and disseminate news and mobilize effective nonviolent action to defend our democracy. Here is what you can do.
1. Get involved.
Scenario: Voting places are closed, and mail-in ballots are restricted because there are too few election workers due to COVID-19 concerns.
Tip: Democracy is a team sport. Everyone can be an election worker. Commit a certain number of people from your church to register as poll workers and mobilize medical personnel to speak on coronavirus-safe voting practices. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission hosts a video explainer and training information for each state, and you can support efforts to recruit young poll workers through powerthepolls.org.
2. Defend accuracy and stop disinformation.
Scenario: Voters receive phone calls, flyers, emails, or social media posts notifying them of alleged changes in the standard voting process, such as a new polling place, a security breach in private voter information, or notification that the voter is no longer eligible to vote.
Tip: Check all information through the National Association of Secretaries of State “Can I Vote?” page. If you discover false information, file an incident report with the Election Protection coalition (866ourvote.org). Alert others by commenting on false information that you see posted online, and do not repeat, repost, or retweet false information.
3. Resist foreign interference.
Scenario 1: In 2016, Russia targeted election infrastructure systems in all 50 states. While the scope is hard to measure, many votes were illicitly influenced through disinformation on social media. There is no evidence that voting machines were tampered with.
Tip: U.S. elections are for U.S citizens, free from foreign interference. Electoral security measures authorized by Congress are intended to keep Russia meddling at bay. Repeat to others that the voting process is defended from foreign interference and encourage Congress to continue to fund electoral security.
Scenario 2: Following the election a candidate announces they have classified intelligence indicating foreign interference in the electoral process and therefore is not prepared to accept the election outcome until the intelligence community validates the votes.
Tip: Contact your congressional representatives through myreps.datamade.us to insist that the House and Senate intelligence and judiciary committees hold public hearings immediately and demand testimony from senior intelligence analysts.
4. Stand up against intimidation.
Scenario 1: Armed citizens announce a “Second Amendment” demonstration near key polling locations.
Tip: Social violence damages democracy. Host trainings in unarmed civilian protection, accompaniment, rumor control, and de-escalation so that community teams are prepared to escort voters safely to and from the polls. Google #RethinkSecurityUCP or visit dcpeaceteam.com and nonviolencetraininghub.org for information on virtual trainings.
Scenario 2: President Trump deploys federal troops to polling or mail-in ballot locations under the guise of “protecting voting rights.” (Federal laws prohibit such deployment to the polls, while many states restrict law enforcement presence there.)
Tip: Everyone in the streets. Massive, broad-based nonviolent and peaceable freedom marches at federal buildings or where troops are located. Prepare for other forms of organized noncooperation, such as walk-outs and strikes. The Choose Democracy website offers resources for civil resistance to a disrupted election or attempted coup.
5. Allow time for all the votes to be counted.
Scenario: A candidate declares victory before all the votes are counted. The first votes counted in many places will be those from in-person voters; many states do not allow counting of mail-in ballots to begin until Election Day. Polls indicate that voters from one party are more likely to cast their ballots in person, thus skewing the initial results. The actual, accurate results may not be known until many days, or even weeks, after Nov. 3.
Tip: Remind people, through social media and other means, that it takes time to accurately count votes—and accuracy is essential. Demand that media refrain from prematurely projecting winners based on inadequate or incomplete results.
6. Once votes are counted, respect the election results.
Scenario: In a battleground state, the popular vote goes to one candidate or vote counting is still in process, but the state legislature “underpopulates” or “falsely populates” the slate of electors to the Electoral College, overturning the will of the people.
Tip: Demand that the governor and secretary of state make public the Electoral College slates as soon as they are available, and that the governor report the electoral slate directly to the Electoral College, rather than waiting for the parties. (Any disputes within the states over electors must be resolved by Dec. 8.)
7. Demand accuracy in media reports.
Scenario: A major media outlet reports false results or calls the election for one candidate before the vote count is completed, and this goes viral on social media.
Tip: Check questionable or premature announcements against several sources, such as protecttheresults.com. On Twitter follow the Carter Center (@CarterCenter), which is encouraging a transparent election process, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (@OSCE), which will be observing the election.