Despite business warnings, GOP moves ahead with voting bills

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican lawmakers across the nation are urgent ahead with efforts to tighten voting legal guidelines, regardless of rising warnings from business leaders that the measures might hurt democracy and the financial local weather.

More than 50 firms and business organizations, together with some in Texas, released an open letter on Tuesday expressing opposition to “any changes” that may make it more durable to vote in that state. The letter — signed by American Airlines, Microsoft Corp., HP Inc., Patagonia, Levi Strauss & Co. and others — comes amid votes on laws that critics say would place disproportionate burdens on minority and disabled voters.

“We believe the right to vote is sacred. When more people participate in our democratic process, we will all prosper,” the letter stated. “The growth of free enterprise is directly related to the freedom of its citizens.”

The statement stopped short of stating opposition to the specific legislation proposed in Texas. Nonetheless, it amounts to a cautious rebuke of lawmakers using former President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen election to make it harder to vote.

Texas is emerging as the next major battleground in the fight over voting laws. The Texas House could vote, as soon as this week, on a bill that effectively targets Harris County, home of Houston and a Democratic hub, after officials there dramatically expanded voting options in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Texas Senate has advanced its own package, with the two chambers likely headed to a compromise committee that would fashion a final version.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has expressed broad support for the effort.

Texas would follow other GOP-led states, including Georgia, Iowa and Florida, where GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign voting legislation passed last week. On Monday, Kansas’ Republican-led legislature overrode the Democratic governor’s veto to approve a voting law. Arizona is also considering legislation, and Republicans in Ohio are expected to introduce a package of proposals this week.

The details of the bills vary state to state but follow a similar pattern of making it harder for people to vote by mail or absentee. While voters of both parties have long used those methods to cast ballots, Democrats were more likely to vote remotely in 2020 — a fact that has spurred the GOP crackdown.

In Texas, one measure would eliminate drive-thru voting, which more than 127,000 people around Houston used during early voting last year. Some Democrats estimate that more than half of those voters were Black, Latino or Asian American. Republicans also want to grant partisan poll watchers wider latitude and make it a felony for an elections officer to send mail-voting applications to households that didn’t request them, as Harris County tried to do during the pandemic.

Democrats have been pushing businesses to use their clout to influence the debate — although businesses have been divided over diving into the partisan battle. Statements issued by companies have done little so far to derail voting-related proposals and have opened up rifts between Republicans and their onetime corporate allies.

The Texas businesses, calling themselves Fair Elections Texas, used notably careful language in their statement, declaring that elections should be “convenient, transparent and secure,” a nod to Republicans’ insistence that their agenda is about stopping fraud and shoring up voter confidence in election outcomes.

At the identical time, the group known as on “all elected leaders” to “make democracy more accessible” and stated they “oppose any changes that would restrict eligible voters’ access to the ballot.”

Todd Coerver, CEO of the Texas-based quick meals chain P-Terry’s Burger Stand, stated the “groundswell” of laws aimed toward altering voting legal guidelines throughout the U.S. made it straightforward for the corporate to signal onto the letter.

Making voting simpler is a part of P-Terry’s tradition, Coerver stated, including that throughout the November election, eating places organized ride-sharing so the corporate’s greater than 900 largely minority staff might get to the poll field. And they might use firm time to vote.

“For us this was not necessarily a political statement,” Coerver stated. “We see it as less of a political issue and more as a human rights initiative.”

Georgia turned a nationwide flashpoint over election procedures when it turned the primary state to undertake an overhaul. Among the important thing provisions, the state now would require voter identification to use for after which forged absentee ballots, changing a signature match program. Georgia officers additionally successfully restricted poll drop containers in metro-area counties compared with the 2020 numbers.

After the invoice was signed, Georgia-based Delta Air Lines and The Coca-Cola Co. criticized the invoice, angering Republicans. Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who faces reelection in 2022, has loudly blasted company America for yielding to “cancel tradition.”

Corporate lobbying has been extra muted in Arizona, the place Republicans are pushing a slate of election bills. It stays to be seen whether or not their slender statehouse majority shall be sufficient to undertake important adjustments.

Trump prevailed over Democrat Joe Biden in Texas and Florida, however Democrats have continued to slender the partisan hole in Texas in latest cycles and Florida stays a battleground, spurring Republicans in each states to pursue new restrictions.

DeSantis, a Trump ally, is predicted to signal a measure that may tighten voter ID necessities for absentee ballots. The business foyer in Florida, closely influenced by the tourism business, remained largely mum, and a few Republicans within the state famous that making it more durable to forged absentee ballots might backfire because the apply is so well-established amongst older Floridians throughout the political spectrum.

The GOP effort even extends to states the place Trump gained by uncontested margins. In Kansas, Republicans this week overrode the veto of Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, on a invoice that may make it more durable for people and teams to gather absentee ballots and ship them for voters. It will now be a misdemeanor for somebody to gather and return greater than 10 ballots in Kansas, which Trump gained by 15 share factors.

In Ohio, the place Trump gained twice by practically double digits, Republicans are set to unveil a bundle that can eradicate a day of early voting, improve voter ID necessities and prohibit placement of poll drop containers anyplace however at an area elections workplace. But Ohio Republicans argue they’re additionally together with different provisions that bipartisan elections boards and voting rights teams have advocated.

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Barrow reported from Atlanta. Associated Press author Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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Acacia Coronado is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit nationwide service program that locations journalists in native newsrooms to report on undercovered points.

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