More than 180 local businessmen and community leaders from 50 corporations have spoken out against Texas voting restrictions in a coordinated, dueling effort to unite against voting restrictions and upcoming legislation.
The first letter, a copy of which was shared with NBC News by its signatories and is dated May 3, was signed by business and community leaders. He criticized specific elements of two major pieces of legislation currently under consideration in Texas, including redistribution of polling machines, limiting early voting opportunities and adding criminal sanctions to various parts of the election process.
“These provisions, among others, will inevitably harm our competitiveness in attracting business and workers to Houston,”
It was signed by a long list of Houston executives and community members, including Gerald Smith, chairman of investment advisory firm Smith Graham, and former U.S. Ambassador Arthur Schechter, a lawyer and philanthropist.
Smith, who said he helped organize the letter, told NBC News that “it’s really good business for business leaders to take a stand on what’s right.”
He said he did not think the business would be able to stop the legislation altogether, but he was still working to ease the legislation.
“Politicians would like to make this a guerrilla problem. As a business leader, I don’t see this as a guerrilla problem,” he said. “It’s a matter of human rights.”
In a separate effort, at least 50 companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Patagonia, American Airlines and P. Terry’s, formed a coalition known as the Fair Elections in Texas to oppose restrictions on voting in the state as a whole, according to Nathan Ryan. CEO of the Austin-based consulting firm Blue Sky Partners, which signed the letter.
On Tuesday, the coalition published a letter opposing the restrictions.
“It’s important for business leaders to understand that a functioning democracy is good for business. We have one of them, “he told NBC News. “There was no real fraud in our last election, certainly nothing that would affect the outcome, so this whole battle we are currently waging is really about the health of our democracy as a whole.”
Texas lawmakers are considering a series of electoral restrictions, including two major bills currently making their way through the legislature that would reduce early voting opportunities, empower poll observers and add criminal penalties to parts of the voter and election process. One bill, Senate Bill 7, was rewritten in the House last week and could go to a vote this week; as it is now read, this would add criminal sanctions to the electoral process.
The coalition letter did not speak against specific legislation, but Ryan said the time was up.
“It is extremely important now that this statement is made,” he said. “I know that these bills will further suppress the vote.”
In recent weeks, hundreds of large corporations have spoken out against restrictions on voting that are expanding across the country, inspired by baseless accusations by former President Donald Trump of voter fraud and stolen elections.
American Airlines came out last month, particularly against an earlier version of SB 7, which reduced early voting opportunities and empowered observers in the polls. Republican Lieutenant Dan Patrick responded angrily, claiming the airline had not read the bill.
A man involved in the state’s efforts to set up a business, who was not authorized to speak to the press, said Patrick’s statements had alarmed businesses.
“I literally heard a business was like, we’re going out, but then we’re going to have to prepare for the punishment that Dan Patrick and the legislature will impose on us,” they told NBC News.
Then, after the coalition began discussing how they would speak, Republicans proposed budget changes that would force businesses that spoke out against the proposed voting restrictions.
Business leaders characterize these changes, which later failed, as “mafia-style management,” the person said.