Businesses finally offer some real resistance to voter suppression

About time.

With less than a month left in the legislative session — and Texas Republicans split on which package of proposals might cross the finish line — Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Unilever, Patagonia and two dozen other companies are urging state lawmakers not to pass new restrictions on voting.

In the biggest pushback so far by business against the GOP’s legislative bid to ratchet up the state’s already restrictive voting rules, national companies joined in a statement voicing their opposition Tuesday with local businesses and several local chambers of commerce representing LGBTQ, Hispanic and Black members of the business community.

“We stand together, as a nonpartisan coalition, calling on all elected leaders in Texas to support reforms that make democracy more accessible and oppose any changes that would restrict eligible voters’ access to the ballot,” the businesses wrote in their letter. “We urge business and civic leaders to join us as we call upon lawmakers to uphold our ever elusive core democratic principle: equality. By supporting a stronger trustworthy democracy, we will elevate our economy.”

The statement does not address specific legislation, but comes as Texas Republicans press forward with bills in the name of “election integrity” despite little to no evidence of widespread fraud and warnings from voting rights advocates and lawyers that many of them would be disproportionately harmful to voters of color.

Following the recent passage of new restrictions in Georgia, major corporations began responding to criticism about staying out of that fight by largely coalescing around joint statements that generally stated their opposition to election changes that make it harder to vote.


As the fight over new restrictions moved from Georgia to Texas, the state’s Republican leadership moved to quickly condemn businesses scrutinizing the proposals under consideration during the 2021 legislative session.

Gov. Greg Abbott — who declared “election integrity” a legislative priority — backed out of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ home opening game and said he would boycott any other Major League Baseball events over its decision to pull the All-Star Game from Georgia in response to new voting restrictions there. Calling it “absolutely ridiculous” for the MLB to take a position on the Georgia law, Abbott in a Fox News television interview indicated he was sending a message to Texas-based companies and others eyeing a move to the state — and the financial incentives that are often used to lure them.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick angrily targeted American Airlines during a press conference in which he described those raising concerns of voter suppression a “nest of liars.”

“Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy,” Patrick said in a separate statement responding to American Airlines’ opposition to SB 7.

In the Texas House, the possible retribution for companies that have come out against the bills has been mostly symbolic so far. Republicans sought to inject the dispute into the chamber’s consideration of the state’s massive budget bill last month, offering amendments to withhold state funds from businesses that publicly opposed legislation “related to election integrity.” Those proposals were ultimately kept off the budget.

Those threats — coupled with Republican demands for corporations to stay out of policy disputes outside of their business realm — did not deter the companies that signed onto the letter. Patagonia has even been sharing its own analysis of “voter suppression legislation,” which includes SB 7, HB 6 and several other bills, with other companies considering opposing proposed restrictions.

“Companies need to do more than solely focus on profit … and empowering their communities can be really good for business and thats something we’re seeing that’s a good trend,” said Corley Kenna, a spokesperson for Patagonia. “I hope more companies speak out on these issues, mostly because I think its important to have companies step up where government seems to be falling short.”

I certainly approve of that. See here for the previous update, here for a copy of the letter, and here for the Fair Elections Texas website, which is pretty bare-bones for now. I very much appreciate their stance, and I hope that they get a lot of reinforcements soon.

Case in point

A group of 175 business leaders sent a letter to House Speaker Dade Phelan on Tuesday morning opposing several key provisions of the voting bills being debated in the Texas Legislature, which they said would add unacceptable barriers for Houston residents to cast a ballot.

They included 10 members of the Greater Houston Partnership board, whose efforts to push the region’s largest chamber of commerce to condemn the bills were rebuffed by the group’s president. With the partnership silent on legislation Harris County leaders say will make voting more difficult for everyone and discriminate against people of color, the members said they could not stomach sitting on the sidelines.

“When you have an organization that is supposed to reflect the diversity and inclusion, and has taken steps on its website to discuss racial equality but does not have the spine to bring forth to a vote an issue that is as important as this, we felt we had no choice but to bring it in a public forum,” said Gerald Smith, who also sits on the partnership’s executive committee.

The letter takes Phelan up on the speaker’s invitation last month for business leaders to flag provisions in the bills, including House Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7, that could add obstacles to voting.

It raises alarm over provisions that would move polling sites away from Houston’s urban core, limit voting hours, ban drive-thru voting, remove restrictions on poll watchers, streamline voter roll purges and add a host of criminal penalties for poll workers and local election officials found in violation of the Texas Election Code.

“These provisions, among others, will inevitably damage our competitiveness in attracting businesses and workers to Houston,” the letter states. “Especially as we aim to attract major conferences and sporting events, including the FIFA World Cup, voter suppression is a stain on our reputation that could cost our region millions of dollars.”


The influential Greater Houston Partnership, founded in 1840, seeks to speak for the 12-county region’s business community. It regularly lobbies the Legislature on policy issues, and in the past has bucked state leaders on controversial issues, including the group’s opposition to the so-called bathroom bill in 2017 that helped torpedo a priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

The partnership also made a commitment last summer to opposing racial injustice, issuing a statement recognizing its members “have an opportunity as Houstonians to lead the way in reforming broken systems, building up communities, offering support and removing barriers.”

For some GHP members, the organization’s inaction on SB 7 and HB 6 calls into question how serious that commitment was. A proposal that would require a roughly equal number of polling sites per state House district, the Harris County election administrator estimates, would result in fewer sites in urban areas with higher Black and Latino populations and more in suburban communities with a higher share of white voters.

As the bills began to take shape in Austin, several board members wished to revise the partnership’s April 1 broad statement on voting rights, which called on the Legislature to balance election security with ensuring equal ballot access.

GHP President Bob Harvey allotted 15 minutes to the topic at the group’s April 21 regular meeting, though the discussion ran much longer, said board member Gerald Smith. He said Harvey pledged to schedule a special board meeting to resolve the issue.

See here for some background on that, and Zach Despart’s Twitter thread for a copy of the letter. These GHP members think the organization is dragging its feet, which at this point seems self-evident. In the end, I still think that at least one of SB7 or HB6 passes, or some combination of them. These are Greg Abbott “emergency” bills, and the seething hordes of the Republican primary electorate will not tolerate anything they perceive to be failure. (Which is one of the reasons we’re in this spot to begin with.) At the very least, time is running out to get on the right side of this issue while it still matters. Do the right thing here, GHP. NBC News and the Texas Signal have more.

UPDATE: I drafted this on Tuesday, didn’t run it on Wednesday, then Mayor Turner and Judge Hidalgo announced they would no longer hold events at the GHP in response to that organization’s pusillanimous response. I’ll have a separate post on that tomorrow. Too much news, y’all.

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13 Responses to Businesses finally offer some real resistance to voter suppression

  1. David Fagan says:

    Yeah, all of a sudden Turner values the voting process, whatever.

  2. David Fagan says:

    This is the same mayor who uses tax payer money to fight public employees in court. Congrats

  3. C.L. says:

    David, doesn’t the Mayor use tax payer money to fight any/all lawsuits filed against the City ?

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    “….legislation Harris County leaders say will make voting more difficult for everyone and discriminate against people of color, the members said they could not stomach sitting on the sidelines.”

    Based on comments like this, I really just feel pity for non Whites, because they are very clearly inferior, less physically fit, less intelligent, and generally not able to function in society. One wonders how they haven’t starved to death already, from lack of being able to find and access grocery stores. Thank God there are a few 24 hour grocery stores, I guess, or else we’d see mass starvation of non White Texans. Non Whites apparently can’t vote with the Whites, from 7am to 9pm during the two weeks of early voting plus election day, I guess, because they are afflicted with some kind of physical or mental disorder that makes them unable to function for 14 hours a day. What kind of horrific lives they must have. I’m so sorry for them.

    Non Whites, even though there are already plenty of accommodations for the disabled, can’t vote without remaining in their cars, unlike White people, who have the superhuman strength to vote in the polling place. Again, I pity this group of sad sacks who are, as a group, so disabled that they can’t even get into the polling place.

    Worst of all, I feel bad for those in the criminal-American community, who work in the voting system. How unfair is it that, if they break the law in performance of their duties, they should face arrest and conviction? It’s not fair, which makes this too, discriminatory against non Whites for some reason. Imagine if we applied that same thinking to cops.

    If I was non White, I’d be pissed about the left’s paternalistic soft bigotry of low expectations. I’d be standing up and telling the leadership that I am just as smart, capable, and fit as White people to vote during the standard voting hours, that I don’t need drive through voting, because I’m strong enough to go into the polling place just like the White folks do. I really don’t understand why there isn’t a huge backlash from non Whites, who are tired of being told they aren’t capable of doing what we all know they ARE capable of doing, who are constantly told they need extra dispensation, crutches, handouts, and help, because they aren’t as competent as Whites. It seems horribly insulting to me, made worse that race baiting non White ‘leaders’ buy into all of it. Imagine, for example, if black leaders got together and said, “We don’t HAVE to vote in the middle of the night, and we don’t HAVE to stay in our cars to vote, because we’re able to function normally in society. We aren’t stupid and we aren’t decrepit. We can vote just like everybody else as it is, as we have been doing for generations.” How refreshing would that be?

    There ought to be a backlash against the businesses that are supporting the BS narrative that non Whites are just plain inferior and less competent, less able to navigate basic life than Whites, and that backlash should be coming from everyone, non Whites AND Whites.

  5. Frederick says:


    Wow, a lot to unpack there.

    This month is Mental Health Month…sincerely, I hope you can get some help.

  6. Política comparada says:


    An alternative approach would be to make voting mandatory, like Australia, perhaps with a “none of the above” option included on the ballot. The duty would apply equally to all.

    Before rejecting the idea out of hand, see here:

    The existing precedent for this in the USA would be the civil obligation to serve on a jury when ordered (“summoned”) to do so.

  7. Bill Daniels says:


    Make sure and unpack this, too:

    “A 2020 Pew Research study reveals that over half of white, liberal women have been diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point. Does this mean there’s a correlation between progressive ideas and mental health?”

    Did Pew Research suddenly become right wing when I wasn’t paying attention?

  8. Manny says:

    God works in mysterious ways Bill, you may get to prove that if you come back as a non-white in a Trump’s Amerika.

    I will bet you are coming back as a cockroach, karma.

  9. Bill Daniels says:


    A more apt comparo would be to force everyone to actually show up to the polls and check in. There are exceptions to being compelled to serve on a jury, but everyone has to respond to a jury summons. So folks wouldn’t be required to actually vote, just to show up and check in. Frankly, I think this is a bad idea, forcing civic engagement in this manner is anathema to our free society. What would be next?

    I could make a good case that everyone who lives in public housing, or is subsidized with Section 8 or other public assistance should be compelled to do mandatory calisthenics each morning and evening. It would be for their benefit, right? They’re getting something from the government, they should submit to compulsory exercise, right? Heck, I’d make the case to force compulsory employment on those people, and isn’t that what you socialists ultimately want? The government assigning people to jobs in the various collectives, a command economy? Equality, diversity and inclusion? Everybody gets included in the mandatory work programs?

  10. David Fagan says:

    Well, SOMEONE explain why the City of a Houston is listed as the Plaintiff. But that doesn’t really matter anymore, since the city approved $92,000 to continue against the defendant.

  11. Jason Hochman says:

    If Microsoft is for it, the richest company in the universe, it is NOT for the people, and voter suppression is in our best interest. Microsoft is desperate because Mrs. Gates walked on Bill Gates after a great deal of work on their relationship. It would be so great if I could meet the wealthy divorcee, Mrs. Gates or Mrs. Bezos and walk down the aisle with one of them! It would be my dream come true! Then I would be against voter suppression with my stature in the top One Percent.

    As it is, I can see the One Percent lining up against voter suppression and know that stopping voter suppression will not help me, or any other person in the 99%.

    Since I don’t waste my time voting, I would love it if I could auction off my vote on eBay and get a few extra dollars so that someone who really loves to vote can vote twice. The Democrats love to be in an election at all times. I remember during the great debates, Mrs. Harris said, “we’re in an election right now.” I personally am sick and tired of the eternal elections, and long for the days when there was an Election Day. Just one day. I remember our grade school calendar with a picture of a ballot box on one day in the first week of November. Before a one day election was racist, voter suppressing, Republican discrimination. Back in those days, Republicans were nice. Gerald Ford and his clumsy good humor, and the avuncular figure of Ronald Reagan, charming us with his Hollywood smile and jar of jelly beans.

    Come to think of it, why even have debates after the election starts? I’m sick of debates, too. You might have voted in June, then the debates are in September, and you find out about Hunter Biden, but too late! You wasted your vote!

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