Voter suppression is bad for democracy. It’s also bad for business.
The voter suppression bills quickly advancing through Texas’ legislative process have been denounced by faith leaders, civil rights advocates, grassroots activists, local election officials and a host of respected leaders across Texas. The message is clear, whether from Reverend Freddy Haynes of Friendship-West Baptist Church, or Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, or former first daughter Luci Baines Johnson, or the Texans of all stripes who drove hundreds of miles and waited all night to testify against these bills: HB 6 and SB 7 are disastrous for our Texas democracy.
They’re right. As my colleague recently explained in the Signal, these complex, omnibus bills would make it even harder to vote in Texas—already the hardest place to vote in the entire country—by targeting Black Texans, Texans of color, Texans with disabilities and other already underrepresented groups. Lawmakers cannot identify any legitimate problem they’re trying to solve; instead, they’re attempting to turn The Big Lie into public policy, just like in Georgia.
A free and fair democracy is the foundation for a just and equitable society—after all, voting is one of our most powerful tools, as The People, to ensure that our government is working for us. As it turns out, a thriving, equitable democracy is also good for business.
TCRP just commissioned a study from Texas economist Dr. Ray Perryman, deemed “the unofficial state economist” by the New York Times, to explore how efforts to restrict voting and civic participation impact our economy. His conclusions are eye-popping and have made headlines in financial media outlets: If passed, new voter suppression laws could cost Texas more than $30 billion dollars and tens of thousands of jobs.
While this economic research is cutting edge, the findings are not actually that surprising. Restricting access to voting decreases political power in those communities most impacted by suppression. Over time, less political power translates to reduced earnings, as lack of power stifles wage growth, educational opportunities and business activity in general for those targeted communities. The resulting drag on household purchasing power, in turn, decreases economic prosperity for the entire state—in the case of HB 6 and SB 7, to the tune of $14.7 billion in lost gross product.
That’s not all. Racist laws have additional negative impacts due to the loss of business travel, major sporting events and other types of tourism, as event planners and travelers seek to avoid any appearance of supporting racism. Georgia, for instance, is reeling from Major League Baseball’s decision to move its All-Star Game following the passage of new voter suppression law there. Dr. Perryman found that these types of external factors would cost Texas an additional $16.7 billion if HB 6 and SB 7 pass.
This is why a growing number of businesses are speaking up against voter suppression, including 72 prominent Black executives and hundreds of brand-names united as the Civic Alliance. This is encouraging, but not enough. All Texas businesses—especially large, influential ones like AT&T, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Whole Foods, Valero, Frito-Lay—must immediately follow the lead of companies like Dell and American Airlines. They must forcefully reject these bills and call upon Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker of the House Dade Phelan to do the same.
Voter suppression is bad for democracy; it’s also bad for business.
Mimi Marziani is the President of the Texas Civil Rights Project.
This article is part of a collaboration between the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) and the Texas Signal. Every two weeks we will feature a new piece from TCRP focusing on voting and election-related bills facing the Texas legislature.