Businesses across the country find themselves at the center of a swirling partisan debate over voting rights. With Republicans in nearly every state pushing forward legislation that would make voting more difficult for some people, businesses are under pressure from both sides. Democratic activists, along with many traditional business leaders, are calling on businesses to oppose the new laws. At the same time, a growing chorus of top Republicans are telling American businesses to be quiet.
Florida Republicans on Thursday passed a new bill that would limit postal voting, reduce the use of drop boxes and ban actions to help people who line up to vote, among other restrictions. Its passage came just weeks after more than 400 companies issued a nationwide statement supporting expanded voting access and implicitly criticizing restrictive efforts. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is expected to sign the state bill.
In the past, opposition from big business helped crush restrictive state-level legislation, and many businesses have spoken out on the issue of voting.
But as Republicans step up their attacks on “awake corporate hypocrites,” as Senator Marco Rubio has put it, who are critical of the party’s agenda, many other companies are acting with caution. After companies such as Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola publicly opposed the voting law passed by Georgia Republicans in March, Florida Republican Mr Rubio excoriated them in a video on Twitter, and former President Donald J. Trump called for a boycott.
Shortly after, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the leader of the minority, told the CEOs to “not play politics.” And in recent days, Republican Senator Ted Cruz from Texas and Republican Senator Rick Scott from Florida have criticized companies, accusing them of supporting the Democratic agenda.
The letter from Fair Elections Texas has been in the works for weeks, as a group of political operatives, Mr. Kirk and members of the coalition, including Patagonia, tried to persuade the companies to sign. National organizations like the Civic Alliance and the Leadership Now Project have also helped corral businesses.
“We stand together, as a non-partisan coalition, calling on all elected leaders in Texas to support reforms that make democracy more accessible and to oppose any changes that would restrict eligible voters’ access to the ballot,” reads. we in the letter. “We urge business and business leaders to join us as we call on lawmakers to stand up for our fundamental, still elusive democratic principle: equality.”