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Texas election groups pressure corporations to oppose GOP election crackdown

Texas political leaders and voting rights groups on Tuesday called on state-based businesses to stop making campaign contributions to Republican lawmakers, as part of a larger effort to thwart attempts to the GOP state legislature to pass a radical new round of voting restrictions.

The Texas State Senate last week approved Senate Bill 7, a broad legislative package that would impose new limits on early voting and ban drive-thru voting locations – making the state the latest epicenter of the Republican Party’s national efforts to curtail voting rights. The State House of Representatives is currently considering the bill, along with another proposal that could allow observers to film voters when voting. Texas Governor Greg Abbott (right) has supported the broader effort to make voting more difficult for Texans.

Large Texas-based companies like American Airlines and Dell Technologies have voiced opposition to the bills. In a conference call with reporters organized by the Texas Right to Vote coalition on Tuesday, voting rights advocates said they would pressure other large companies to join them, saying it was vital to protect a fundamental principle of American democracy and basic voter rights.

“This is the biggest attack on democracy and the ability to vote in Texas in over a decade,” said the former representative. Beto o’rourke, a Democrat who represented a congressional district of El Paso from 2013 to 2019. “We still have time. But I want these companies to know: If you don’t take action, know that the hottest places in Texas will be reserved for companies that maintain their neutrality in a time of moral crisis like this.

Texas voting groups mimic a lobbying campaign that began in Georgia, where voting activists have pushed companies like Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola to denounce a newly passed law this limits the voting rights. Major League Baseball last week moved its July All-Star Game from Atlanta amid the outcry over the law.

However, many of these companies did not speak out against the Georgian law until after it was passed. In Texas, Democrats and voting rights groups are trying to step up corporate pressure ahead of the legislation’s final passage.

“What we’re saying to businesses … is that at a minimum, you have to stop funding those who push these voter suppression bills,” said Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, an organization based in Georgia, which also advocates for the right to vote in a dozen other states.

Albright said the coalition will urge voters to call and email businesses and lawmakers to voice their opposition to the bills.

(Photo by Go Nakamura / Getty Images)

Legislation passed by the Texas Senate would ban drive-thru voting locations, which many Texans used in the 2020 election.

As in Georgia, voting groups called Texas bills “Jim Crow 2.0” because they would disproportionately harm black and Latino voters in the state. Texas is already considered one of the most restrictive states for voting in the country. Voting groups in Georgia have filed multiple lawsuits against the new electoral bill in that country. Texas attorneys had previously persuaded federal courts to repeal a voter identification law after proving it would have a disparate impact on black and brown voters, they said they would make similar arguments – to lawmakers and, if necessary, the courts – about the new legislation.

“It’s a question of race,” said Jane Hamilton of the Barbara Jordan Leadership Institute, a Texas organization that promotes and advocates for the involvement of black women in politics. “It’s not about whether you are a Democrat or whether you are a Republican. It is about the possibility for blacks and Maroons to vote, to exercise their constitutional right. “

Texas Republicans, like their counterparts across the country, have argued that the bills are needed to secure elections in the state and prevent voter fraud after the 2020 election. But widespread voter fraud did not materialize produced in Texas or elsewhere in last year’s election, and in reality the bills are part of a widespread GOP push reduce voting rights – especially in swing states like Georgia and Arizona, where Republicans lost last year, and states like Texas, where the GOP’s margins of victory have shrunk in recent elections.

State legislators introduced at least 361 invoices in 47 states who seek to implement new restrictions on voting rights, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Five major pieces of legislation that limit voting rights have already been passed and at least 29 other bills have been approved by a single state legislative chamber, according to the Brennan Center’s analysis of voting law.

Campaigns like this have worked in Texas before. In 2017, corporate pressure helped derail the Texas GOP’s efforts to pass an anti-LGBTQ “toilet law” that would have prevented transgender people from using public toilets that match their gender identities.

“It’s not futile. This is not screaming in the wind, ”said former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who served as housing and urban development secretary in the Obama administration. “Your standing right now can assure you that this legislation will not appear.”

American Airlines, headquartered in Fort Worth, said last week that it was “strongly opposed“To Senate Bill 7 and” Others Appreciate It. “

“As a Texas-based company, we must stand up for the rights of our team members and customers who live in Texas, and honor the sacrifices made by generations of Americans to protect and expand the franchise,” said the company said in a statement. declaration.

Michael Dell, CEO of Austin-based IT giant Dell Technologies, criticized House Bill 6, the Texas House GOP bill, on Twitter last week.

In Tuesday’s call, O’Rourke and other voting rights advocates also named AT&T, Frito-Lay, Toyota and Pepsi as companies that must pressure or stop contributing Republicans until that the pressure to limit voting rights is over.

“We believe the right to vote is sacred and we support voting laws that allow more Americans to vote in free, fair and secure elections,” said AT&T CEO John Stankey, in a statement provided to HuffPost.

The statement said that while “the election laws are complicated, not the expertise of our company and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials,” Stankey and AT&T believe they “have a responsibility to engage” and that the company would work with it. other companies “to support efforts to improve people’s ability to vote.” “

Stankey also said the company supports a voting rights statement issued by the Business Roundtable, of which AT&T is a member, and said that “easily accessible and secure voting is not just a valuable right and responsibility, this is the best way to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. “

Southwest Airlines, which like AT&T is headquartered in Dallas, said in a recent statement that “the right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and a right coveted by all”, but did not specifically quote the proposed bills.

Toyota and PepsiCo Frito-Lay did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Several voting rights advocates said during the call with reporters that they believe the companies have not gone far enough to oppose the Texas legislation.

“Not only do we ask you to make statements, but we need you to go beyond speech to walk,” said Reverend Frederick Haynes, pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas. “Don’t say on the one hand that you are against voter suppression, but on the other hand fund Republicans and the very people who are engaged in these voter suppression tactics.”

Texas election groups pressure corporations to oppose GOP election crackdown

(Photo by Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

American Airlines was among the first large Texas-based companies to take a stand against the GOP’s efforts to limit voting rights in the state. Voting rights advocates are urging other companies to take similar action.

Republicans in Texas and elsewhere have pushed back corporate opposition to their plans, telling business leaders to stay out of politics and threatening to enact policies they say would raise taxes or hurt people. companies like Major League Baseball. This week Governor Abbott canceled a scheduled appearance during a Texas Rangers game after MLB moved its All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia law.

“You keep getting into trouble … and you turn off at least 50% of your potential customers,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, said. said Tuesday morning. “You have the right to have your opinion, but read this damn bill.

But the pressure on Texas’ biggest companies shows no signs of stopping. Several of the state’s largest voting groups are planning to hold a protest in Dallas on Thursday to call on AT&T to speak out.

And if the GOP continues to pursue new electoral restrictions in Michigan, Arizona and other states, similar corporate lobbying campaigns will likely follow.

“These are national companies and global companies, and we need them to speak out as well about what is happening in other states, to speak out in favor of the franchise,” said Albright, of Black Voters Matter, on Tuesday’s call. “In other words, to show support to those in their state who work in their companies, work in their factories, as well as to us as consumers. This is what we demand. This is what corporate responsibility looks like. “


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