A group of prominent Black business leaders is calling on corporate America to do more to fight a raft of Republican-inspired restrictive voter laws being pushed in state legislatures across the country. The effort, led by former American Express chief executive Kenneth Chenault and Kenneth Frazier, the head of the pharmaceutical company Merck, is a direct response to the recent passage of a restrictive voter law in Georgia and many more on the horizon just like it that will make it harder for Black and minority communities to vote. The group published a full-page ad Wednesday in the New York Times to raise awareness and spur action.
The push by Chenault and Frazier comes as corporate America has been relatively silent on the issue of voting rights, other than to issue milquetoast affirmations of voting and democracy in general. Meanwhile, Georgia’s Republican-heavy state legislature plowed full speed ahead with a set of new voting laws enacted after the GOP lost the 2020 presidential election as well as both Senate seats. The law tightens ID requirements for absentee voting, curtails early voting options, and, perhaps more worryingly, gives the state legislature more authority over the local administration of elections, something that would have made it easier for Donald Trump to overturn the election last time, and possibly in the future.
The Black business executives are attempting to increase pressure on corporate America to do something. Corporate pressure has been applied on a host of issues, notably bathroom bills and anti-LGBTQ laws, creating a new set of consequences for local Republican lawmakers looking to discriminate. “You had 60 major companies—Amazon, Google, American Airlines—that signed on to the statement that states a very clear opposition to harmful legislation aimed at restricting the access of L.G.B.T.Q. people in society,” Chenault told the Times. “So, you know, it is bizarre that we don’t have companies standing up to this.”
“As African-American business executives, we don’t have the luxury of being bystanders to injustice,” Frazier said. “We don’t have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines when these kinds of injustices are happening all around us.”