A pair of far-reaching elections bills that would make voting more difficult in Texas are attracting ire of the Lone Star State’s business community.
Airlines, some of which are headquartered or operate hubs in the state, have expressed discomfort with the bills, as have other companies with Texas ties.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines said that it was “strongly opposed” to both a bill that passed in the state Senate early Thursday morning and “others like it.”
The Senate bill takes aim at several ways Harris County — home to Houston — made voting easier in 2020, while imposing a polling place formula that will shift election sites out of urban areas. It also adds new mandates for those assisting voters who need help at the polls, and gives partisan poll watchers the OK to video record those voters while they’re at their voting station if the watcher thinks the assistance is “unlawful.”
A House bill with several similar provisions is making its way through committee this week.
Microsoft, which employs 1,500 Texans, called out the House election legislation for how it cracks down on election officials who encourage mail voting, and also said that the bill could criminalize “honest mistakes” made by volunteer poll workers.
Michael Dell, the CEO of Dell Technologies, also singled out the House legislation in a tweet on Thursday, when the bill’s committee hearing was getting underway.
Agree. Free, fair, equitable access to voting is the foundation of American democracy. Those rights – especially for women, communities of color – have been hard-earned. Governments should ensure citizens have their voices heard. HB6 does the opposite, and we are opposed to it. https://t.co/srLRfGxgZF
— Michael Dell (@MichaelDell) April 1, 2021
Other major Texas-linked companies have been vaguer in their response to the legislation, with Southwest Airlines asserting its belief that “every voter should have a fair opportunity to let their voice be heard” and AT&T pledging that it was working with other groups “to support efforts to enhance every person’s ability to vote.”
A new elections law in Georgia is experiencing similar corporate backlash. There, companies were at first more milquetoast in their response to the legislation, perhaps because they had been working behind the scenes to strip the bill of its most extreme measures. They have since sharpened their criticism, under pressure from voting rights activists and communities of color.
In Georgia, GOP lawmakers have flirted with ways to retaliate against companies for speaking out abut the bill, and similar resentment is already rising in Texas among Republicans who have shrugged off the criticisms.
Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick (R) put out a statement claiming that just before American Airlines issued its criticism, a company lobbyist told him they had not yet read the bill.
“Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy,” he said.