The nation’s fight over voter inclusion heated up in Michigan, with General Motors Co. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra and Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley headlining a group of 38 business leaders in the state who signed a letter to the state’s lawmakers saying that any changes to voting laws shouldn’t restrict people from casting ballots, especially historically disenfranchised communities.
With Michigan’s Republican-led Senate expected to soon start hearings on a range of election proposals, the group of business leaders sent a letter dated April 13 that stated eight principles supporting people’s right to vote and opposing anything seen as unfair restrictions.
A battle is expected after Michigan Republicans last month filed 39 proposed changes to the state’s voting rules, citing an interest in improving election integrity. Democrats have criticized some of the new rules as unfair, especially provisions that would restrict mail-in ballots, which the party’s supporters overwhelmingly favor.
“We want to reiterate our belief that the right to vote is the essence of a democratic society and that the voice of every voter should be heard in elections that are conducted with integrity,” GM said in a statement. “We are calling on Michigan lawmakers and state legislatures across the nation to ensure that any changes to voting laws result in protecting and enhancing the most precious element of democracy — the right for all eligible voters to have their voices included in a fair, free and equitable manner.”
More than 100 business executives gathered online this past weekend to discuss their response to the increasing number of restrictive voting rules being proposed across the U.S. and enacted in Georgia. CEOs at Delta Air Lines Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. have voiced opposition to Georgia’s new rules, and Major League Baseball said it will move this year’s All-Star Game from Atlanta.
In Michigan, the most contentious Republican proposals would require identification to get an absentee ballot, and would mandate that drop boxes for absentee ballots be approved by the secretary of state and county boards of canvassers. The proposals also would prohibit using ballot drop boxes after 5 p.m. before Election Day and would bar the secretary of state from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications or posting them online.
The state GOP had challenged election results in November along with former President Donald Trump. No wrongdoing was found.
Many of Michigan’s largest employers were on the list. Mike Manley, the Americas CEO of Stellantis NV, signed the statement, along with CEOs from major parts suppliers American Axle & Manufacturing, BorgWarner Inc., Robert Bosch GmbH and Continental AG. They were also joined by leaders of all four of Detroit’s major sports franchises.
The letter’s eight principles for election rules are:
• The right to vote is a sacred, inviolable right of American citizens.
• Our democracy is strongest when we have the greatest level of participation by our citizens in a representative government.
• We are committed to encouraging our team members to exercise their right to vote and provide accommodations to do so.
• Safe and secure options to vote are vital to ensuring voter participation.
• Government must support equitable access to the ballot to ensure that all eligible voters can exercise their rights.
• Government must avoid actions that reduce participation in elections — particularly among historically disenfranchised communities, persons with disabilities, older adults, racial minorities and low-income voters.
• Government has a responsibility to continuously improve and strengthen election administration, because public faith in the security and integrity of our elections is fundamental.
• Election laws must be developed in a bipartisan fashion to preserve public confidence in our elections and to preserve the values of democracy.
“Our nation is strongest when we stand together,” the letter said. “We call on our elected officials to adopt these principles as they proceed in the spirit of inclusion and equality.”
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