Corporate executives set to join effort to increase voter access in the wake of new voting laws: WSJ

In this Jan. 19, 2018, file photo, American Express Chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault listens during an interview with The Associated Press in New York. Chenault was chief executive officer and chairman of American Express until Jan. 31. In his last interview before retiring, Chenault talked to The Associated Press about the new tax law, being a black CEO, and what greater competition means for AmEx.
Kenneth Chenault.

  • Top business leaders met on Zoom this weekend to map out their response to new voting restrictions.
  • The WSJ reported that CEOs were asked to sign a statement opposing restrictive voting legislation.
  • “This is a nonpartisan issue, this is a moral issue,” Kenneth Chenault, former CEO and Chairman of American Express, told the Journal last month.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Numerous chief executives and senior leaders met on a Zoom call this weekend to map out how businesses should respond to new voting restrictions that are set to be enacted in Texas and other states across the country, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding Georgia’s new voting law, SB 202, with Major League Baseball pulling the 2021 All-Star Game from the state and companies like Coca-Cola and Delta pushing back against restrictive voting provisions, this effort would represent a significant development in the corporate sector weighing in on voting rights.

During the call, Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive officer of Merck & Co., asked the leaders to “collectively call for greater voting access,” according to the Journal report.

Chenault and Frazier, two of the most prominent Black business leaders in the US, also reportedly told businesses not to walk away from the voting right issue and requested that CEOs sign a statement “opposing what they view as discriminatory legislation on voting.”

The statement from a new constellation of business leaders could be released as soon as this week, according to the Journal.

Last month, 72 Black executives signed an open letter that was featured in The New York Times, asking for companies and business leaders to offer pushback against legislation that would infringe on voting rights.

Chenault informed the business executives on the call that several leaders would back the effort, including executives at PepsiCo, PayPal Holdings, T. Rowe Price, and Hess, among other companies.

“This is a nonpartisan issue, this is a moral issue,” he told the Journal last month.

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Frazier said that as an increased number of states take up legislation similar to Georgia’s SB 202, companies have to take action.

“This is not a Georgia issue,” he told the Journal.

The Georgia law tightens election rules in the state by limiting drop boxes, strengthening voter identification requirements, and blocks the use of mobile voting vans, among other measures.

Mellody Hobson, the chairwoman of Starbucks Corp., said on the call that the controversies surrounding the new voting laws are “bad for business” and hopes that businesses can devise ways to work on voting issues, according to the Journal.

AMC CEO Adam Aron, Estée Lauder Cos. director Lynn Forester de Rothschild, and CyberCore Technologies CEO Tina Kuhn all reportedly backed the new statement, according to the Journal report.

As some companies have become increasingly vocal about voting access, Republican leaders from Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have railed against pushback to the new legislation.

Kemp has accused business leaders of adhering to “cancel culture” and McConnell recently warned them not to become “a vehicle for far-left mobs.”

But some companies are hesitant to jump into any hotly-debated political issue altogether, aware that any position that take could alienate a portion of their business or customer base.

“It’s really a no-win situation from a corporate standpoint,” a Fortune 100 business executive told the Journal.

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