Very few fundraising events bring together the combined talents of Zooey Deschanel and former United States Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, but that’s exactly what’s happening Sunday with United to Save the Vote. These leading lights of Hollywood and the Beltway will join a star-stunned lineup that also includes Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, Sia, Dave Matthews, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, Property Brothers’ Jonathan Scott, George Lopez, Kenny G and Keenan Thompson.
Ed Helms will host the Zoom-enabled event, which is free to view. The audience is encouraged to donate, and the variety show’s backers, which include the non-profit RepresentUs, hope to raise $2 million to support voter safety and access. The show is produced by Tara Smith Swibel, Brian Swibel, and Adam Westbrook, partners in the theatrical company Triptyk, and written by Matt O’Brien, the head writer at “Conan.”
“This is a non-partisan organization,” says Tara Smith Swibel. “We’re not telling you who to vote for. The critical thing is to vote.”
And yet despite the non-partisan nature of the enterprise, the virtual event is being held partly to support vote-by-mail initiatives, something that has become increasingly, even bizarrely politicized in the Donald Trump era. The president routinely claims that vote-by-mail leads to election fraud and corruption even as that option becomes more appealing during a global pandemic.
“There is a lot of mixed messaging out there, but fortunately there are a lot of Republicans and Democrats who care deeply about the integrity of the voting process,” says Westbrook.
The show’s producers note that there is no evidence to suggest that vote-by-mail encourages election fraud. The practice dates back to the Civil War and has been increasing in popularity in both red and blue states — 46 states now offer access to some form of mail voting to all voters. President Trump personally uses mail-in ballots. However, the disinformation campaign is swaying popular opinion.
“Half of Americans now believe vote-by-mail invites fraud and the goal of this event is to dispel those fears and mistruths,” says Brian Swibel. “With the COVID situation, expanding vote-by-mail should be a top priority, but when we reached out to talent the message we received was ‘thank God someone is finally talking about this.'”
The virtual event won’t be all civics. Organizers promise that there will be entertainment and lots of humor when it begins airing over Zoom at 5pm PT/ 8pm ET.
“We want to be sure that the audience feels taken care of and that they can laugh and learn,” says Westbrook.