As Washington awoke this morning, the fate of the presidency was still undecided as officials counted ballots in key states that will deliver the winning electoral votes to Joe Biden or Donald Trump.
The situation was similar in the Senate, where votes were still being tallied in a handful of races that will determine control of the chamber. The House will likely remain in Democratic hands, though Democrats do not appear to have increased their majority.
For advocacy professionals, the counting delay triggered a much-anticipated scenario in the pandemic election: the day after the polls closed, we still don’t know which party controls the White House and the Senate.
But there are some things we do know. Advocacy organizations that want to address the election and communicate with their audience have many options, even without final results. Organizations can reassure their advocates, thank supporters, congratulate winners and more.
If you are considering how to communicate with your audience this week, here are some key points.
State of Play
- The U.S. electoral system thus far appears to be working as it should. There is no evidence of systemic problems or fraud, despite any claims by candidates or campaigns
- This is not shaping up as a wave election. How your audience feels about this will depend on their expectations going into Election Day. How Democrats fare remains to be seen, but it is not a landslide.
- It may take days to count the ballots. In a country used to immediate access to information, this may cause frustration. But this year’s election could have the highest voter turnout in 100 years, including tens of millions of votes cast by mail. In states like Pennsylvania, those votes are still arriving.
- The presidential race appears much tighter than polling suggested. Polling that showed Biden ahead by wide margins for weeks appears to have painted a misleading picture, as it did in 2016. But we won’t know exactly how polls compared to results until the counting is done.
- Two well-known Republican Senate incumbents who faced tough challengers persevered. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina both won reelection.
Talking to Your Audience
Whatever the outcome, there is much you can do to communicate with your supporters:
- Reassure Your Audience. A few words of reassurance can be welcome in an uncertain time, especially for membership organizations. Maybe it’s a letter or a video from the CEO. Maybe it’s a testimonial from a member of your audience. Whatever you choose, keep it short. The goal is simply to remind your audience that your organization is still at their side.
- Thank Your Advocates. If you have been asking people to register and vote, the post-election period is a good time to thank them. If you sponsored registration drives, petitions or pledges, report your results. Remind them that, no matter what the outcome of the election, that their effort was important and appreciated.
- Congratulate Winners. Whatever the ultimate outcome, there will be new faces in Congress, new governors and new states legislatures. You can congratulate them on their victory and note that you look forward to working with them. Short communications to a targeted list, whether on social media or via other channels, are a solid gesture.
Remember too that your organization is not alone. All advocacy shops are facing tough questions as they navigate the election. In fact, several well-known organizations have called for calm as the vote count continues. In a joint statement on Election Day, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the National African American Clergy Network urged patience.
“It is imperative that election officials be given the space and time to count every vote in accordance with applicable laws,” they said. “We call on the media, the candidates and the American people to exercise patience with the process and trust in our system, even if it requires more time than usual.”
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