Apple, Amazon, Google, Starbucks and Pepsi are among the more than 150 companies that signed a letter released Wednesday calling on Congress to pass laws that would expand the protection of the voting rights law for minority voters.
“Despite decades of progress, many states still have barriers to the exercise of the right to vote, especially for communities of color. We need federal protection to protect this fundamental right for all Americans,” the companies wrote in the letter.
The letter calls on Congress to pass a bill updating the 1965 Suffrage Act to address a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that repeals one of its most effective provisions.
This provision required that certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination receive federal approval for new electoral rules. In the Shelby County v. Holder case, the Supreme Court ruled that the formula that Congress had used to determine which places must be pre-approved was out of date and illegal.
In the letter, the companies asked Congress to update the formula “and put in place a more transparent and accountable system for states to report changes to electoral law”.
“Laws amending the electoral law must help ensure that colored voters, who continue to be the target of voter suppression, have equal and unhindered access to the democratic process,” the companies wrote.
The letter was released on Saturday prior to the anniversary of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Death. A bill named after Lewis that would update the cover formula of the proxy bill is pending in Congress but is considered unlikely to pass the Senate, where most bills require 60 votes to become law. Democrats hold 50 seats in the House of Lords.
The letter marks recent efforts by some of America’s largest employers to support the largely Democratic-backed civil rights protection. A website announcing the letter says its 166 signatories together employ 4 million people.
While American corporations are largely viewed as the bastion of conservative views, in recent months large corporations have tended to take positions on sensitive issues more in line with the views of President Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress, which sometimes angered Conservatives. A number of firms have suspended political donations to lawmakers who failed to ratify the 2020 election for Biden following the January 6 riots in the Capitol.
Other large companies that have signed the voting letter include Microsoft, PayPal, Target, Unilever, Tesla, and Facebook.
The letter makes no mention of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, nor the state laws that conservative lawmakers across the country have since put in place that would tighten electoral rules. Democrats and voting rights experts have said that many of the bills will restrict minority participation in elections.
The companies wrote that in the 2020 election, “Americans have come together to poll, cast and vote in spite of the pandemic, and achieve historic levels of voter turnout in the process. The business community prides itself on our role in empowering our employees, customers and communities to exercise their voting rights and have a say in our government. “
The companies added that the election “revealed deep inequalities in the conduct of our elections”.
“While each of our companies is unique, we agree that every American deserves a vote in our democracy. It is up to our government to make sure that the elections are open to all. We call on Congress to add to the legacy of Rep. Lewis by passing a proxy bill to ensure every voice is heard, “the companies wrote.
The letter comes at a time when increased attention is being paid to the voting rules. On Tuesday, Republicans in the Texas Senate managed to pass a controversial electoral law despite dozens of state Democratic MPs fled to Washington, DC, to face a procedural freeze. Legislation still has to pass in the lower chamber of the state parliament to become law. Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has threatened to arrest the Democrats.
The Biden government has stated that protecting voting rights is a top priority. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last month that it would double the Justice Department’s staff to enforce voting rights, citing both Shelby County’s decision and GOP electoral laws.
Also in June, Garland announced that the Department of Justice is suing Georgia for new election restrictions that the former federal judge alleged “were issued with the aim of denying or restricting the right to vote for black Georgians based on race or skin color. “
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