Determined to halt the Republican push to revamp Florida’s voter laws and suppress voter turnout, members of Florida’s Legislative Black Caucus, including Chairman Senator Bobby Powell, along with Senator Perry E. Thurston, Jr. and Representative Patricia Williams on Monday called on the state’s most powerful corporate citizens to denounce the authoritarian legislation.
“Many of our country’s largest corporations have been outspoken on the issue of protecting our right to vote,” said Senator Powell. “Unfortunately, many of these same corporate interests are helping to fund the crackdown on those rights by Republicans in statehouses across the nation, including Florida’s. We are calling on them to examine their rolls in bankrolling these oppressive measures, and we are calling on them to stand up for democracy.”
“Corporations are an integral part of the community in Florida,” said Senator Thurston. “They should not and cannot be on the sidelines. As others are doing across the nation, Florida’s top executives need to speak out and let Floridians know where they stand on these suppressive laws.”
Opposed by every single one of Florida’s 67 elected Supervisors of Elections, SB 90 is currently awaiting its last hearing before the Senate Rules Committee. On the House side, HB7041 made a sudden appearance before its first committee stop, and is scheduled for its second next week. The House bill not only mirrors the Senate legislation, but adds a component copied from recently signed voter suppression legislation in Georgia, barring the offering of so much as a cup of water to anyone stuck in long voter lines as a result of the overhaul. Many opponents agree that the measures are primarily intended to target minority voters, whose turnout in 2020 helped cement the election of President Joe Biden in Georgia and elsewhere.
Georgia’s largest corporations had been under pressure by citizens and advocacy groups to reject the legislation, with a number of them signing on to the effort. After the legislation was signed into law, many of the most prominent Black executives in the nation banded together to fight the voter suppression bills advancing in 43 states.
In an open letter published Wednesday in the New York Times, the CEO’s “called on all of corporate America to publicly and directly opposed new laws that would restrict the rights of Black voters, and to use their clout, money and lobbyists to sway the debate with lawmakers,” according to the news report.
The letter was followed by news that Delta Airlines, Georgia’s largest employer, and Coca-Cola sharply criticized the legislation. And on Friday, Major League Baseball announced that it was moving its All-Star Game from Atlanta as a result of Georgia’s new voter suppression law, a move supported by President Joe Biden.
Similar opposition is also underway in Texas, where the Lone Star’s Republicans are moving ahead with voter suppression legislation.
Despite Florida’s flawless performance in the 2020 election, and high praise from the governor and the state’s top elections official, Florida Republicans have insisted without a shred of evidence that such voter suppression legislation is needed here, joining a coordinated national effort to restrict voting rights at a rate not seen since the days of Jim Crow. In 47 states, 361 bills have been filed that would make it harder for Americans to vote. These laws have a disproportionate impact on communities of color.
The move to stand on the side of conscience is not new. Last summer, corporations spoke out in support of Black Lives Matter and vowed to do their part in dismantling systemic racism. Now, when Black and brown communities are being threatened with laws that would disproportionately affect them, the silence from those businesses is a tacit endorsement of the disenfranchisement of those communities, the lawmakers warned.
“Corporate conscience shouldn’t begin or end at the state line,” said Representative Williams. “We wholeheartedly agree with these Black CEO’s that the stakes are too high to remain on the sidelines. Whether their Florida counterparts head up a Fortune 500 firm or a sports franchise in the NFL or the NBA, all of us have a duty as Americans to reject this discriminatory legislation meant to limit our right to vote.”
Members endorsing this call include:
Senator Audrey Gibson
Senator Randolph Bracy
Senator Darryl Rouson
Senator Shevrin Jones
Rep. Kamia Brown, Vice Chair
Rep. Tracie Davis, Exe. Board Member
Rep. Fentrice Driskell, Exe. Board Member
Rep. Geraldine Thompson, Exe. Board Member
Rep. Bobby Dubose, Democratic Co-Leader
Rep. Ramon Alexander
Rep. James Bush, III
Rep. Christopher Benjamin
Rep. Kevin Chambliss
Rep. Omari Hardy
Rep. Dianne Hart
Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson
Rep. Dotie Joseph
Rep. Travaris McCurdy
Rep. Angela Nixon
Rep. Anika Omphroy
Rep. Michele Rayner
Rep. Felicia Simone Robinson
Rep. Marie Woodson