Corporations across the country find themselves at the center of a swirling partisan debate over voting rights. With Republicans in almost every state advancing legislation that would make it harder for some people to vote, companies are under pressure from both sides. Democratic activists, along with many mainstream business leaders, are calling on corporations to oppose the new laws. At the same time, a growing chorus of senior Republicans is telling corporate America to keep quiet.
On Thursday, Republicans in Florida passed a new bill that would limit voting by mail, curtail the use of drop boxes and prohibit actions to help people waiting in line to vote, among other restrictions. Its passage came just weeks after more than 400 corporations issued a national statement supporting expanded access to voting and implicitly criticizing the restrictive efforts. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is expected to sign the state’s bill.
In the past, opposition from big business has helped squash restrictive legislation at the state level, and many companies have spoken out on the voting issue.
But as Republicans step up their attacks on “woke corporate hypocrites,” as Senator Marco Rubio put it, that criticize the party’s agenda, many other companies are proceeding cautiously. After companies including Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola publicly opposed the voting law that Georgia Republicans passed in March, Mr. Rubio, Republican of Florida, excoriated them in a video on Twitter, and former President Donald J. Trump called for a boycott.
Soon after, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, told chief executives to “stay out of politics.” And in recent days, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, have criticized corporations, accusing them of supporting the Democratic agenda.
The letter from Fair Elections Texas has been in the works for weeks, as a group of political operatives, Mr. Kirk and coalition members, including Patagonia, tried to persuade companies to sign on. National organizations like the Civic Alliance and the Leadership Now Project also helped corral companies.
“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 letter reads. “We urge business and civic leaders to join us as we call upon lawmakers to uphold our ever elusive core democratic principle: equality.”