I am thrilled to finally see companies state their opposition to voter suppression proposals on the Statehouse floor in Texas, before State Senate bill 7, House Bill 6, and others get passed by the Republican Legislature. Georgia based companies waited to oppose SB 202 and failed to contribute to decreasing the danger of that bill.
Discrimination — including voter suppression legislation — is immoral and antidemocratic, and it’s also bad for the economy.
For example, Major League Baseball relocated the All-Star game after Georgia passed SB 202, a loss of approximately $1 million for the state economy.
In Texas, Microsoft, Unilever, Patagonia, HP and others have joined a statement opposing the pending “election integrity” legislation. American Airlines and Dell even went so far as to oppose specific provisions of Texas SB 7 and HB 6.
Lawmaking is a negotiated process. Business is already involved in state lawmaking to ensure state and local environments are good for business. Out of self-interest, business should lobby to ensure a Democratic environment for constituents, employees and customers. It makes good moral sense, good business sense and companies have the power to do it.
Texas shouldn’t pass voter suppression laws and therefore there is a need to negotiate the reduction or elimination of virtually every proposal on the floor.
Texas is already the hardest state to register and vote in. It has a strict voter ID law and stringent registration deadlines. Absentee voting is limited to folks over 65, and there are a reduced number of polls in some parts of the state.
If the Texas proposals pass, many aspects of the state elections system will be subject to criminal penalties. Per House Bill 3297, people who make unintended mistakes on registration applications will be subject to second-degree felony charges.
The standards are unclear, but under House Bill 2546, election administrators will be liable for jail time for election related violations that were previously not criminal infractions.
Per HB 3080, third-party organizations and family members who encourage others to vote by mail or who give a voter an absentee registration form without a specific request, will be subject to misdemeanor charges.
Under HB 4331, third-party “get out the vote” campaigns (text and in-person) will become susceptible to felony charges.
If all these measures were to become law, seniors who are eligible to vote absentee will have to submit a thumb print and a photocopy of their ID when they apply for a ballot, and that ballot will have to be submitted four days before Election Day in order to be counted. Election work will increase as election administrators and volunteers will be required to conduct signature matching of all absentee ballots.
And the state aims to remove local control over county elections. Under HB 1026, the secretary of state will be named the statewide registrar and have the legal right to purge votes of people suspected of not being citizens. Former Secretary of State David Whitley was forced to resign in 2019 when he purged 90,000 voters he claimed weren’t citizens. If these Texas bills pass, illegal purges of voters will be the law of the state.
I am praying that sane Texas business leaders, athletes and others can use their voices get the NCAA to oppose the Texas proposals and to refuse to host NCAA sports events in Texas. According to NCAA rules, events can only be hosted in “locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination.”
Business activism will not necessarily end the GOP push to suppress votes to voter suppression laws in Texas and other states, but it will help.