More than 150 companies call on Congress to strengthen Voting Rights Act


Apple, Amazon, Google, Starbucks and Pepsi are among more than 150 companies that signed on to a letter released Wednesday calling on Congress to pass legislation that would expand the Voting Rights Act’s protections for minority voters.

“Despite decades of progress, impediments to exercising the right to vote persist in many states, especially for communities of color. We need federal protections to safeguard this fundamental right for all Americans,” the companies wrote in the letter.

The letter calls for Congress to pass legislation that would update the 1965 Voting Rights Act in order to address a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that did away with one of its most effective provisions.

That provision required certain jurisdictions with histories of racial discrimination to receive federal approval for new voting rules. In Shelby County v. Holder, the top court ruled that the formula Congress had used to determine which localities must receive preclearance was out of date and unlawful.

In the letter, the businesses call on Congress to update the formula “as well as establish a more transparent and accountable system for states to report election law changes.”

“Legislation amending the Voting Rights Act must help ensure that voters of color who remain the targets of voter suppression have equal and unfettered access to the democratic process,” the companies wrote.

The letter was released ahead of the anniversary of the death of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., on Saturday. Legislation named after Lewis that would update the Voting Rights Act’s coverage formula is pending in Congress but is seen as unlikely to pass in the Senate, where most bills require 60 votes to become law. Democrats hold 50 seats in the upper chamber.

The letter marks the latest effort by some of America’s largest employers to back civil rights protections largely supported by Democrats. A website announcing the letter says that its 166 signatories collectively employ 4 million workers.

While corporate America is largely seen as a bastion of conservative views, in recent months large companies have tended to take stances on hot-button issues more in line with the views of President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress, at times angering conservatives. A number of firms suspended political contributions to lawmakers who failed to certify the 2020 election for Biden after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Other large companies that signed on to the voting rights letter include Microsoft, PayPal, Target, Unilever, Tesla and Facebook.

The letter does not mention Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election or the state bills, which conservative lawmakers around the country have introduced in the time since, that would tighten voting rules. Democrats and voting rights experts have said that many of the bills would limit minority participation in elections.

The businesses wrote that in the 2020 election, “Americans came together to work the polls, get out the vote, and cast their ballots in spite of the pandemic, achieving historic levels of voter participation. The business community is proud of our role in encouraging our employees, customers, and communities to exercise their right to vote and have a say in our government.”

The companies added that the election “highlighted deep inequities in how our elections are run.”

“While each of our companies is unique, we are united in the belief that every American deserves a voice in our democracy. It is our government’s role to ensure voting is accessible to all. We urge Congress to add to the legacy of Representative Lewis by passing Voting Rights Act legislation that assures that every voice is heard,” the companies wrote.

The letter comes at a time of heightened attention on voting rules. On Tuesday, Republicans in the Texas Senate managed to pass a controversial elections bill despite dozens of Democratic lawmakers in the state fleeing to Washington, D.C., in an effort to present a procedural roadblock. The legislation still has to pass in the state legislature’s lower chamber to become law. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has threatened to have the Democrats arrested.

The Biden administration has said that protecting voting rights is a top priority. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last month that he would double the Justice Department’s staff dedicated to voting rights enforcement, citing both the Shelby County decision and the GOP election laws.

Also in June, Garland announced that the Justice Department is suing the state of Georgia over new voting restrictions the former federal judge claimed were enacted “with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of Black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color.”

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