After Democrats derailed one of the most restrictive voting bills in Texas in the 11th hour, nearly guaranteeing another partisan showdown in the near future, business leaders in the state have been eerily silent as they chart their next steps.
“Now would be a good time for them to say something like, ‘We’re glad you were beaten, we hope this doesn’t advance to a special session,'” said Cliff Albright, co-founder and CEO. of the Black Voters Matter Fund.
“In fact, they can be proactive.”
With a whopping 49 restrictive voting bills, Texas led a nationwide charge to undermine voter access, even as advocates for voting rights warned of proposals for a new version of Jim Crow and would disproportionately disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color.
The attack on voting rights sparked national outrage, including among the local business community, until Democratic lawmakers left the Texas House of Representatives to block Senate Bill 7, one of the most controversial and long-standing measures. scope.
But his last-minute maneuver has already set the stage for legislative overtime, making the celebrations premature and forcing risk-averse corporate executives to consider whether they will re-enlist in the fight for the second round.
“If the fighting still continues, I think most companies are going to keep the fire, for lack of a better term, until they understand if this is going to return or not, and in what way and at what pace,” he said. Nathan Ryan, Co-Founder and CEO of Blue Sky Partners, which is part of the Fair Elections Texas coalition of business and civic leaders.
Although the timing is unclear, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has expressed his intention to reconvene the state legislature for a special session, forcing lawmakers to address so-called “electoral integrity” after the failure. of the SB7.
The broad legislation threatened public officials with criminal offenses in state prisons for soliciting or distributing unsolicited vote-by-mail requests, prohibited 24-hour voting and drive-thru, and made it easier to revoke an election, among other provisions. .
Texas has already earned the unenviable title of the hardest place to vote in the U.S. Other hurdles to the polls could prove disastrous for the state’s economy, in part by making it harder to hire workers, cut down on productive work time, alienate major events or conferences, and deter potential tourists.
“I certainly know, when I make my travel plans, if I was thinking of going to Texas, I wouldn’t want to go,” Albright said.
By 2025, measures restricting voter access would cause Texas to lose an estimated $ 14.7 billion in annual gross product and more than 73,000 jobs due to lower incomes, job losses and lower household spending power.
An additional of $ 16,700 million and 149,644 jobs would be lost from successes to tourism to economic development, according to economic research and analysis firm The Perryman Group.
That financial setback would persist for decades, with a cumulative drop in gross product in the trillions by 2045. It would also reduce tax revenue, which would cost state and local entities billions.
“Voter suppression is bad for business. Period. It’s bad for business, it’s bad for the economy, ”Albright said.
During the regular session, the corporate giants and local business he also drew himself into the political debate to make unusual public comments that discourage attempts to roll back voting rights.
In a Fair Elections Texas letter, dozens of coalition members, including American Airlines, Microsoft, HP, Salesforce, Etsy, and Patagonia, urged elected officials to “oppose any changes that restrict eligible voters access to the ticket”.
“We wanted to make a strong statement against any type of legislation that would make voting less convenient and, as a result, cause less turnout,” Ryan said.
Separately, Dell Technologies he lambasted state legislators for trying to silence the voices of citizens, while American Airlines “strongly opposed” Texas’ restrictive ballot bills.
“At American, we believe we must break down barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion in our society, not create them,” said the Based in Fort Worth airline said in a statement.
Texas Republican leaders fought back with bitter barbs that bordered on intimidation, questioning companies’ understanding of the legislation and hinting at retaliation.
“They need to stay out of politics, especially when they have no idea what they are talking about.” Abbott said.
“It is possible that they will come down the street in the next session, have a bill that they want us to pass. Good luck! “Lieutenant Governor Dan patrick additional.
Those inflammatory remarks likely influenced companies that ultimately chose not to speak up, and may have even cooled activism among some who had already made statements, Albright said.
But “it’s not like these companies just have to be completely intimidated by these threats coming from these governors, right?” added. “Because at the end of the day, these governors need these businesses.”
As company executives contemplate the near inevitability of a special session, Ryan believes there is still an appetite to reject the voting restrictions.
Part of that comes down to the potential for financial losses if a measure like SB7 becomes law. But it’s also about protecting your employees and community members.
“Businesses don’t see this as a Democratic party versus a Republican party. They really see this as something small and democratic, ”Ryan said. “It is the main civil law of our country.”