Wisconsin Business Leaders Ensure Fair Elections

*By Louis Pascarella
Time Period: 2021-Present
Location: United States, Wisconsin
Main Actors: Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy
Tactics
– Civic Engagement
– Media Outreach
Petitions
– Questionnaires 
Signed Letters of Support
– Amicus Brief

In 2020, a bipartisan group of Wisconsin business leaders, concerned over unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud during the 2020 election, formed an association to protect voting rights and democratic institutions: the Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy. The association initially focused on encouraging civic engagement in the business sector, through avenues such as voter education initiatives, registration drives, and advocacy for companies to provide paid time off for employees to vote and/or work as an election official. They also created a civic toolkit to aid other business leaders seeking to improve civic engagement.

The Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy also took an active role in bolstering democracy and resisting autocratic attacks on voting infrastructure. The association sent letters of support to Wisconsin election officials, including the embattled Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe, members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, and over 1800 municipal clerks. In doing so, Wisconsin Business leaders legitimized the electoral system and dismissed partisan attacks based on false claims of voter fraud.

During the 2022 Wisconsin general election, Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy publicly requested gubernatorial candidates Tim Michels and Tony Evers sign a pledge to abide by ten basic democratic principles. These principles included a promise to respect the outcome of the 2022 elections, encourage a peaceful election atmosphere, refrain from propagating known falsehoods about the electoral process, veto any attempts to decertify the 2020 presidential election results, and to certify the results of the 2024 presidential election once verified by the Wisconsin Election Commission.

When candidate Tim Michels did not respond to the pledge, Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy took action. Feeling it necessary to inform the public and having given both candidates ample opportunity to respond, they aired an advertisement noting Michels’ non-response to the pledge. The ad condemned Michel’s non-response and supported Evers as the “pro-democracy” candidate.

Following the 2022 general election, Wisconsin held a special election in April 2023 to fill a vacant seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Similar to the 2022 general election, the Supreme Court race was highly polarized and embroiled in falsehoods around electoral integrity. Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy once again sent a questionnaire to the two major candidates, Janet Protasiewicz and Daniel Kelly. The questionnaire asked for their perspective on matters of democracy, especially pertaining to cases likely to involve the court. Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s responses were published in full on Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy’s website, but former Justice Daniel Kelly did not respond after repeated inquiries. Daniel Kelly only addressed the questionnaire after a critical op-ed from the business coalition, but ultimately refused to answer any part of the questionnaire. Individuals from Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy once again ran advertisements, noting Kelly’s role in working to undermine the 2020 election results.

Most recently, Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy submitted an amicus brief to a Dane county court defending Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe and asking the judge to rule against partisan attempts to remove her from office.

By taking on this public role, Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy signaled the business communities’ demands for a free and fair election that respected the choices of the people of Wisconsin. With their help, the Wisconsin elections of 2022 and the Supreme Court 2023 election proceeded with little issue. The Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy exemplify the case for business involvement in democracy. Assembling a non-partisan coalition, the Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy were able to ensure fair, non-violent democratic elections in 2022 and 2023.

Where to Learn More
Wisconsin Business Leaders For Democracy 
Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly’s failure to complete survey on democracy deeply troubling 
Wisconsin Business Leaders & Democracy

You can access all the caselets from the Pillars of Support Project here.