AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After passing in the state Senate following hours of testimony into the early morning Thursday, Senate Bill 7 is getting national attention as major corporations issue statements against the bill.
If passed, SB 7 would ban mail-in ballot drop boxes and drive-thru voting. Author of the bill Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and other Republican lawmakers call it an election integrity bill.
“Senate Bill 7 will make it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Hughes said.
Voter rights activists like Julie Oliver with Register2Vote are starkly against the bill, though, and call it voter suppression.
“Who is gonna want to move to Texas if we have these kinds of Jim Crow voter suppression laws on the books?” Oliver said.
Thursday evening, Fort Worth-based American Airlines announced its opposition to the bill as well. The company said it is standing up for the rights of its team members and customers.
“Voting is the hallmark of our democracy and is the foundation of our great country. We value the democratic process and believe every eligible American should be allowed to exercise their right to vote, no matter which political party or candidate they support,” the company said in a statement.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick countered their announcement, saying Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share Texas values.
“The majority of Texans support maintaining the integrity of our elections, which is why I made it a priority this legislative session,” Patrick’s statement reads, “Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy.”
Dell Technologies, based in Round Rock, weighed in on similar legislation Thursday, stating its opposition to HB 6. Dallas-based Southwest Airlines and AT&T issued statements in support of voting rights but did not criticize any state legislation.
James Henson of the Texas Politics Project explained these corporations have to think through these decisions before deciding to weigh in, and only do so when it could impact their business.
“This is about either business concerns that, somehow their insertion in this issue has to be weighed as a business matter is this going to hurt them,” Henson said. “It also affects these corporations in terms of recruiting employees and managers.”
Top Republican leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have bragged in recent years on Texas’ business environment, saying it will attract many large companies. Henson points out that the recent opinions from major Texas companies may begin to sway GOP lawmakers.
“It’s not a good look for the state in terms of tracking business,” Henson said, “They will be paying attention to this, this is going to enter into the calculus”
Even before companies began weighing in, Sen. Hughes said critics are just trying to stir up controversy.
“Many folks are trying to draw this into a national debate,” Hughes said. “And these groups send out emails to raise money and to get people riled up. And really that whole discussion, it just seems to divide us.”