Two broad coalitions of companies and executives plan to release letters on Tuesday calling for expanded voting access in Texas, wading into the contentious debate over Republican legislators’ proposed new restrictions on balloting after weeks of relative silence from the business community in the state.
One letter comes from a group of large corporations, including Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Unilever, Salesforce, Patagonia and Sodexo, as well as local companies and chambers of commerce, and represents the first major coordinated effort among businesses in Texas to take action against the voting proposals.
The letter, under the banner of a new group called Fair Elections Texas, stops short of criticizing the two voting bills that are now advancing through the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature, but opposes “any changes that would restrict eligible voters’ access to the ballot.”
A separate letter, also expected to be released on Tuesday and signed by more than 100 Houston executives, goes further. It directly criticizes the proposed legislation and equates the efforts with “voter suppression.”
hat letter was organized by a breakaway faction of the Greater Houston Partnership, the equivalent of a citywide chamber of commerce in the country’s fourth-largest city, and came after a month of intense debate within the organization over how to respond to the voting proposals.
Together, the letters signify a sudden shift in how the business community approaches the voting bills in Texas. Until now, American Airlines and Dell Technologies were the only major corporations to publicly speak out about the Texas legislation, and after doing so they quickly found themselves threatened by Republicans in Austin, the state capital.
But with a varied coalition that numbers well into the dozens, companies are hoping a collective voice willing to apply pressure at the state level could break through and sway the thinking of some Republican legislators who may be wavering on the bills.