Major corporations with offices in Texas are speaking out against Republican legislative proposals in the state that would curb expanded voter access.
Corporate heavy hitters American Airlines, which is located in Fort Worth, and Dell Technologies, headquartered in Round Rock, were the first to criticize the attempts to alter state election laws.
Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell announced his company's opposition to House Bill 6, which legislators are still in the process of approving. The bill aims to prohibit local election officials from sending out mail-in ballot applications, among other provisions.
In a tweet Thursday, Dell said, "Free, fair, equitable access to voting is the foundation of American democracy. Those rights — especially for women, communities of color — have been hard-earned."
American Airlines took issue with Senate Bill 7, which would impose sweeping restrictions on local efforts meant to make it easier to vote. The state Senate approved the bill during the early morning hours on Thursday.
In its statement, American wrote: "We are strongly opposed to this bill and others like it. As a Texas-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."
The new proposals are part of a broader effort by state Republicans to further restrict mail-in and early voting in a direct response to actions local officials took that drove high turnout in November and helped Democrats' success at the ballot box.
Texas Democrats and voting rights advocates have raised concerns that certain bills would make running elections harder because of the fear of prosecution over potential mistakes by officials. They are also worried these bills could make it harder for marginalized communities, especially Blacks and Latinos, to vote.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, issued a blistering response to the airlines' comments Thursday.
"Texans are fed up with corporations that don't share our values trying to dictate public policy," he said. "The majority of Texans support maintaining the integrity of our elections, which is why I made it a priority this legislative session."
Patrick said SB 7 would lead to safer elections, alluding to unfounded claims that the November elections were somehow not secure. In November, following the presidential elections, Patrick offered up to $1 million in defense of former President Donald Trump's unsupported claims of irregularities in the presidential election. The money was to go to any information of voter fraud.
The proposed laws in Texas, and the subsequent corporate backlash, mirror a similar fight over voter access in Georgia. Late last month, that state approved a major election overhaul that would, in part, restrict mail-in and weekend voting while expanding some voters' access to in-person early voting.
Big companies in Georgia spoke out about the new measure — but after it was already signed into law.
Dozens of other states are considering changes to local election laws. The Brennan Center, a nonprofit that tracks voting laws and advocates for expanded access, says that as of March 24, 47 states are considering 361 bills that would reduce early voting days or limit access to voting by mail, among other changes.
But other companies are speaking out against those efforts to alter state election policy.
Southwest Airlines and AT&T more broadly criticized efforts to change state election laws on Thursday, following the Texas state Senate's SB 7 approval.
Southwest Airlines said Thursday: "The right to vote is foundational to our democracy and a right coveted by all. We believe every voter should have a fair opportunity to let their voice be heard."
AT&T said it would work with the Business Roundtable, a nonprofit association made up of CEOs of major U.S. companies, "to support efforts to enhance every person's ability to vote."
"We understand that election laws are complicated, not our company's expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials," the statement said. "But, as a company, we have a responsibility to engage."
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