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Texas-based companies oppose voter bills

Texas-based companies oppose voter bills

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After Democratic legislators in Georgia failed to stop a voter suppression bill in March, they were suddenly — and belatedly — joined by major corporations headquartered in Georgia, such as Coca Cola and Delta Airlines.

They had remained silent until after Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill.

That led to pressure, through Black-led organizations, including Black Major League baseball players and voting rights groups, to help punish Georgia.

The corporations said the bill endangered the sacred voting rights of their employees, customers and all American citizens.

Major League Baseball agreed to move the annual Major League All-Star Game, set for July 13 in Georgia, to another state.

Backers of that idea included Democratic President Joe Biden, who called the voting bill “Jim Crow on steroids.”

The same sequence seems underway in Texas.

Texas’ own “ballot security”/”voter suppression” legislation, Senate Bill 7, was carried by Mineola Republican Sen. Bryan Hughes.

Its provisions include outlawing some efforts Harris County officials had tried to make voting easy and more accessible — especially during a pandemic.

They opened drive-through voting locations, and set up 24-hour polling places so people with odd work shifts could vote.

They tried to send applications for mail ballots to all 2.4 million of its registered voters, and set up multiple mail ballot drop-off sites at county clerk satellite offices. But those efforts were stymied by Texas Republicans.

Hughes’ bill restricts voting hours to between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., bars 24-hour voting sites; blocks drive-through voting; and limits the authority of local officials to try things such as “soliciting” mail ballot applications from voters.

Senate Bill 7 was given emergency status by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in March, allowing immediate consideration by legislators.

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Senate’s presiding officer, made it a priority. It passed the Senate on an 18-13 Republican-Democrat party-line vote, after a Wednesday Senate session that stretched into the wee hours of April 1.

But large Texas-based corporations, such as American Airlines of Fort Worth and Dell Technologies of Round Rock and Southwest Airlines of Dallas, had learned from the Georgia companies’ experience: Don’t wait around until the bill becomes law to speak up.

Hours after the Senate sent SB 7 on to the House to consider along with its own similar House Bill-based business, we must stand up for the rights of our team members and customers who call Texas home, and honor the sacrifices made by generations of Americans to protect and expand the right to vote .... no matter which political party or candidate they support.”

Patrick responded in a news release later Thursday.

“As Lt. Governor of Texas, I am stunned that American Airlines would put out a statement saying ‘we are strongly opposed to this bill’ [Senate Bill 7] just minutes after their government relations representative called my office and admitted that neither he nor the American Airlines CEO had actually read the legislation.

“Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy. The majority of Texans support maintaining the integrity of our elections, which is why I made it a priority this legislative session. Senate Bill 7 includes comprehensive reforms that will ensure voting in Texas is consistent statewide and secure.”

Democrats charged the changes were to make it more difficult for people to vote — including younger, older, disabled and people of color — because if they do vote, they tend to support Democrats.

Or, as Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilbert Hinojosa put it, “Senate Bill 7 is the worst voter suppression we’ve seen since Jim Crow — a full-on assault on the voting rights of Texans with disabilities and Black and Latino voters.

“Republicans have two priorities right now: attacking Texans’ rights and silencing Texans’ voices,” Hinojosa said.

Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, said he opposed Senate Bill 7, the House’s similar House Bill 6, and others like them proposed in other states.

“Free, fair, equitable access to voting is the foundation of American democracy,” Dell said. “Those rights — especially for women, communities of color — have been hard-earned. Governments should ensure citizens have their voices heard. HB 6 does the opposite, and we are opposed to it.”

Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, who led the House in 2017 in killing Patrick’s pet “Bathroom Bill” to regulate which restrooms transgender people could use, weighed in.

“Major Texas employers are stepping up and speaking out against voter suppression, and for good reason,” Straus wrote on Twitter.

“Texas should not go down the same path as Georgia. It’s bad for business and, more importantly, it’s bad for our citizens.”

Contact Dave McNeely at davemcneely111@gmail.com.

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