Prominent Business Leaders Unite To Stop Texas Voter Suppression

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As reported by The New York Times, “Two broad coalitions of companies and executives released letters on Tuesday calling for expanded voting access in Texas,” marking yet another instance of corporate outcry amid a nationwide Republican push for tougher voting restrictions. A slew of corporations have already spoken out against voting restrictions recently signed into law in Georgia. Major League Baseball even announced that they’d be moving their planned All-Star Game out of that state.

Meanwhile, one Texas coalition — billing itself as Fair Elections Texas — includes large companies like HP, Microsoft, Unilever, Salesforce, Patagonia, and Sodexo, and in this group’s new letter, signatories expressed their opposition to “any changes that would restrict eligible voters’ access to the ballot.” A second letter came from over 100 Houston-area business executives affiliated with a local chamber of commerce-like organization called the Greater Houston Partnership. In that letter, signatories characterized the voting restrictions under consideration in Texas as “voter suppression.”

The Fair Elections Texas letter reads, in part, as follows:

‘We stand together, as a nonpartisan coalition, calling on all elected leaders in Texas to support reforms that make democracy more accessible and oppose any changes that would restrict eligible voters’ access to the ballot. We urge business and civic leaders to join us as we call upon lawmakers to uphold our ever elusive core democratic principle: equality.’

In Texas, Republicans state legislators have proposed new provisions that would (among other possibilities) “restrict the distribution of applications to vote by mail, require people assisting voters to disclose the reason a voter might need help in casting their ballot — even if for medical reasons — and enhance protections for partisan poll watchers, including criminal liability for election workers for their treatment of watchers,” The Texas Tribune explains. Restricting the distribution of mail-in voting applications would make mail-in voting pointlessly more difficult. No systematic election security issues have been discovered in Texas or elsewhere in the U.S.

Possible criminal liability over treatment of political party-affiliated poll observers would mean that, in theory, partisan groups including the GOP could bring further complaints to court if they felt that their representatives weren’t getting the access and leeway that were appropriate. Throughout the aftermath of the 2020 election, Republicans consistently claimed that their poll watchers had been mistreated — on November 14 of last year, for instance, the Associated Press reported that “lawsuits claimed poll watchers were temporarily denied access in some locations, but there has been no evidence to back it up.” No matter the lack of evidence, implementing potential criminal consequences for election workers over their treatment of poll watchers could bolster these punitive cases.