Businesses call on Congress to strengthen voting rights law

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

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

The letter calls on Congress to pass legislation that would update the 1965 Voting Rights Act to respond to a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that removed one of its most effective provisions.

This provision required that certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination receive federal approval for new voting rules. In Shelby County v. Holder, the highest court ruled that the formula Congress used to determine which localities should receive preclearance was obsolete and illegal.

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

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

The letter was released ahead of the death anniversary of Representative 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 it is unlikely to pass in the Senate, where most bills require 60 votes to become law. Democrats hold 50 seats in the upper house.

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

While American business is widely seen as a bastion of conservative views, in recent months, big business has tended to take positions on hot issues more in line with the views of President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress, at times causing the anger of the conservatives. A number of companies have suspended political contributions to lawmakers who failed to certify the 2020 election for Biden after the Jan.6 riot on Capitol Hill.

Other big companies that have signed the voting rights letter include Microsoft, PayPal, Target, Unilever, Tesla and Facebook.

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

The companies wrote that in the 2020 election, “Americans came together to work the polls, get the vote out and vote despite the pandemic, reaching historic levels of voter turnout. Business is proud of our role 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 inequalities in the way our elections are run.”

“While each of our businesses 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 that the vote is accessible to all. We urge Congress to add to Representative Lewis’ legacy of passing a voting rights law that ensures every voice is heard, ”the companies wrote.

The letter comes at a time of heightened attention to voting rules. Texas Senate Republicans managed to pass a controversial election bill on Tuesday despite the flight of dozens of state Democratic lawmakers to Washington, DC, in an attempt to present a procedural roadblock. The legislation has yet to be passed by the lower house of the state legislature to become law. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, threatened to arrest Democrats.

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

Also in June, Garland announced that the Justice Department was suing the state of Georgia over new voting restrictions which the former federal judge said were enacted “for the purpose of denying or restricting the right to vote. black Georgians because of their race or color. “

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