Government watchdog Accountable.US released an analysis showing that major corporations contributed at least $644,500 to Senate Republicans who in 2021, blocked the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act despite the companies’ claims to support two key federal voting rights bills.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 is proposed legislation that would restore and strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, certain portions of which were struck down by two United States Supreme Court decisions of Shelby County v. Holder and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee.
The Freedom to Vote Act would standardize voting election laws across the country and would significantly expand voting access, including reversing the effects of dozens of new state-level voting restrictions passed this year.
The Freedom to Vote Act, is a watered-down successor to the For the People Act, introduced as H.R. 1, a massive Democratic bill to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, ban partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders. H.R. 1 passed the House but died in the Senate.
Senate Republicans filibustered both bills last year, using a rule that prevents any measure from coming up for a vote unless 60 senators allow it instead of simply permitting majority rule.
If the bills do pass, they would tremendously reshape the landscape of voting and election administration in the United States because while Republicans have resorted to extreme gerrymandering, intimidation of local election officials, voter suppression, and other ways of making elections unfair, the Supreme Court has twice gutted the tool courts once used to protect voters, the Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Act was the most successful civil rights legislation in our country’s history until the Supreme Court gutted the law in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. The Court further weakened the law’s protections against voting discrimination in another case in 2022 in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee.
Former President Donald Trump’s lie about his defeat in the 2020 election is driving a state-based legislative campaign to undermine voting rights that only Congress can stop.
Accountable.US challenged the hypocritical corporations – including Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Walmart — to back up their words favoring all Americans having ballot access, especially historically disenfranchised Black and Brown voters.
“As more and more state-level politicians who are committed to the Big Lie push voter suppression measures to deny the freedom to vote to millions of voters of color and people with disabilities, the need to pass federal voting protections could not be more urgent,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US.
“Many big name corporations have assured their customers and employees that they recognize that our democracy is especially vulnerable, but then chose to reward politicians seeking to turn voting into a privilege, not a right,” said Herrig. “These companies are selling the public a bill of goods about what they really care about – holding political influence over as many lawmakers as possible, no matter what values are compromised in the process. If companies truly value the right to vote, it’s now or never to prove it.”
“Corporations can show they mean business on preserving democracy by urging the Senate to remove any outdated loopholes and barriers that stand in the way of passing urgently needed voting protections,” said Herrig.
The Brennan Center for Justice has documented many of the reasons why legislative action is necessary.
The House of Representatives on January 13, 2022, passed the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, a combined version of the two bills, but it remains unlikely that the legislation can survive the Senate.
“The House’s bold action is exactly what this moment requires,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center. “Now the Senate must act. In the long fight for voting rights, this is a critical moment. Every senator must choose, and every senator must vote. The health of our democracy is at stake.”
As long as corporate money keeps flowing to corrupt lawmakers who refuse to let Americans vote, talk is just going to stay cheap.