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Large Companies Attack Voter Suppression Laws for Hurting Workers

Some of country's largest companies have become more targeted in their criticism of voter suppression legislation, holding states accountable in part to protect their own employees’ rights.

ballot 1294935 640 smallAfter facing mounting criticism for not doing enough to denounce such legislation, including Georgia’s “Election Integrity Act,” that passed last month, some employers have stepped it up.

Microsoft President Brad Smith noted his concerns over the new Georgia law as his firm moves to place Atlanta “on the path toward becoming one of Microsoft’s largest hubs in the United States in the coming decade, after Puget Sound and Silicon Valley.”

“We are concerned by the law’s impact on communities of color, on every voter, and on our employees and their families,” Smith wrote in a March 31 blog. “We share the views of other corporate leaders that it’s not only right but essential for the business community to stand together in opposition to the harmful provisions and other similar legislation that may be considered elsewhere.”

In his blog, Smith highlighted the Georgia law’s restriction on voting drop boxes and how this especially impacts his company’s employees. “Georgia’s new law requires that every county have a secure drop box for absentee ballots (which is good) but limits them to only one per 100,000 registered voters (which is terrible),” Smith wrote. “This means that Fulton County, where most of Microsoft’s employees live, likely will see an 80% reduction in drop boxes, from 40 during the 2020 election to only about eight moving forward.”

Smith also highlighted “new and unnecessary restrictions” on absentee ballots, including moving the deadline to complete an application for an absentee ballot to two Fridays ahead of election day as opposed to the Friday before that day. “No one gets to call time out on life’s necessities two Fridays before election day,” he wrote. “And while people rightly have focused on the impact of this provision on people of color, we’d add its negative impact on employees who sometimes must take unexpected business trips to take care of customers.”

Companies also are getting feedback from their employees on what the voter restriction measures mean and how they should react. Georgia-based Delta moved beyond its initial half-hearted backing of the state’s bill, reports the Brennan Center For Justice.

“After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian wrote in a memo to employees. “That is wrong.”

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon noted that his firm’s “employees span the United States and as state capitals debate election laws, we believe voting must be accessible and equitable,” CNN reports. “We regularly encourage our employees to exercise their fundamental right to vote, and we stand against efforts that may prevent them from being able to do so," Dimon said. “We are a stronger country when every citizen has a voice and a vote.”

On April 1, Major League Baseball announced that it would not allow Atlanta to host its All-Star Game due to the voting law, The Washington Post reports. MLB’s own employees, its players, were a decisive factor in the decision. “…We have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.”

Reuters reports reports that other major companies voicing their disapproval of voter suppression bills include Coca-Cola, Citigroup, American Airlines Group, Dell Technologies, Patagonia Works, Apple, Facebook, Alphabet, ViacomCBS, Merck & Co, American Express, Bank of America, Wells Fargo & Co, Cisco Systems, Best Buy, Shake Shack, BlackRock, Hubspot, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Accenture, Home Depot, United Parcel Service, United Airlines, Porsche Cars North America and Exxon Mobil.

"Our company's recent, increased commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity is informed by our belief that we must seek every avenue to overcome the systemic obstacles to our democratic principles that have developed over many years,” Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said. “This includes obstacles to the right to vote.”

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