With 48 days to November 3, mail-in voting underway and early voting starting shortly, the 2020 Presidential race will undoubtedly be a dominating story of the fall—but it won’t be the only story.

The impact of Covid-19 on the nation’s health, wealth and the uncovering the multitudes of long-standing racial justice issues will also play a prominent role. Unlike previous elections, voters are confronted with issues that go well beyond a candidate’s stance on the “bread and butter” issues, challenging them to examine an array of overwhelming and wide-sweeping topics. This dynamic is not lost on the reporting community who are relentlessly diving deep into each storyline.

Why does this matter? According to an early June 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center, an overwhelming majority of voters said they were paying close attention to news about Covid-19 [90 percent] and the George Floyd protests [86 percent]. By comparison, attention to news about the 2020 presidential candidates was a lot lower, with just 27 percent saying they were paying “very close” attention. Over one-third [36 percent] said they were following election news either not too closely, or not at all. 

Recent numbers show engagement is climbing; however, there remains significant concern about the ability to actually cast a vote and have it count. Regardless of audience sentiment, media companies are engaged and watching the issues of Election 2020 closely.   

Editors and reporters say that headlines and the news cycle will continue to change daily. The ongoing challenge of Covid-19, the downstream economic crisis along with racial unrest, and the 2020 election have created the perfect storm of chaos in newsrooms across the country.

While many media outlets are either shifting staffing resources to manage election coverage, others are bolstering resources. CNN and The Associated Press have both made investments to ensure coverage. NBC has said it is doubling the size of the team that covers election security and expanding its podcast team.

But despite all the intensity and resources being thrown at covering the race, the media hasn’t forgotten the debacle of calling the election in 2016, and there’s likely to be a higher focus on accuracy and less emphasis on speed.

Why “Get Out the Vote” and “Civic Engagement” is a Compelling Corporate Story  

As the Edelman Trust Barometer indicates, stakeholders expect more from companies—whether that’s protecting employees and customers during the pandemic or taking a stand for social justice.  

Companies are generating substantial coverage from their efforts to get out the vote and promote civic engagement:

  • Offering time off for early voting or on Election Day. Brands across industries ranging from retail and CPG to health and media (including DJE companies) have joined forces with Time to Vote, a voter accessibility organization. The list of brand partners includes companies such as Twitter, Walmart, Tyson, Unilever, Coca-Cola, REI, Patagonia, PayPal, Nestle, Ben & Jerry’s, Gap Inc. and more than 600 others. Many of these brands are offering time off in the form of additional PTO, a day without meetings or completely closing to encourage voter participation among employees. CNBC and The Wall Street Journal have provided a deeper look into what these companies are doing.  
  • Making voting more accessible through safe transportation. Ride-share companies Lyft and Uber—also partnering with Time to Vote—are offering free rides to the polls on election day. 
  • Encouraging employees to get involved locally. Starbucks announced several voter initiatives, one of which is a partnership with Power to the Polls and Civic Alliance to encourage partners to volunteer with their local election authority as non-partisan poll workers. Brands like Old Navy, Tory Burch and Nordstrom are also encouraging employees to volunteer.  
  • Launching digital efforts to encourage registration and voting.  
    • To help users register and make informed voting decisions, Snapchat is releasing new tools including sample ballots, a voter guide and voter checklist. More on the effort here. 
    • Voting organization Rock the Vote is reaching young, first-time voters by partnering with social media influencers across Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok.
    • Spotify also launched a new campaign with partner HeadCount. The campaign provides a “Voter’s Booth hub” landing page that provides voter resources, registration, podcasts and more. 

Election Day May Not Be Over on November 3   

In mid-August, Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub told CNN “We’re all going to need to take a deep breath and be patient this year...there’s a substantial chance we are not going to know on election night what the results are, possibly for the presidency, but maybe for many other races that are important to people, and that’s okay.”     

The U.S. Constitution and federal law gives the states five weeks [meaning Tuesday Dec. 8] to complete the count of their popular vote, from which the Electors for the Electoral College are chosen. They will then cast their votes six days later [December 14] to officially declare the winner.    

We should anticipate that disinformation, alongside wall-to-wall coverage of a delayed completed count of the popular vote in all 50 states and U.S. territories, will eat up time, attention and space for any non-associated topics or narratives.