San Francisco Chronicle

Despite business warnings, GOP pushes restrictio­ns

- By Acacia Coronado and Bill Barrow Acacia Coronado and Bill Barrow are Associated Press writers.

AUSTIN, Texas — Republican lawmakers around the country are pressing ahead with efforts to tighten voting laws, despite growing warnings from business leaders that the measures could harm democracy and the economic climate.

More than 50 companies and business organizati­ons, including some in Texas, released an open letter on Tuesday expressing opposition to “any changes” that would make it harder to vote in that state. The letter — signed by American Airlines, Microsoft Corp., HP Inc., Patagonia, Levi Strauss & Co. and others — comes amid votes on legislatio­n that critics say would place disproport­ionate burdens on minority and disabled voters.

“We believe the right to vote is sacred. When more people participat­e in our democratic process, we will all prosper,” the letter said. “The growth of free enterprise is directly related to the freedom of its citizens.“

The statement stopped short of stating opposition to the specific legislatio­n proposed in Texas. Nonetheles­s, it amounts to a cautious rebuke of lawmakers using former President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen election to make it harder to vote.

Texas is emerging as the next major battlegrou­nd in the fight over voting laws. The Texas House could vote, as soon as this week, on a bill that effectivel­y targets Harris County, home of Houston and a Democratic hub, after officials there dramatical­ly expanded voting options in 2020 amid the coronaviru­s pandemic. The Texas Senate has advanced its own package, with the two chambers likely headed to a compromise committee that would fashion a final version.

Texas would follow other GOPled states, including Georgia, Iowa and Florida, where GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign voting legislatio­n passed last week. On Monday, Kansas’ Republican­led legislatur­e overrode the Democratic governor’s veto to approve a voting law. Arizona is also considerin­g legislatio­n, and Republican­s in Ohio are expected to introduce a package of proposals this week.

The details of the bills vary state to state but follow a similar pattern of making it harder for people to vote by mail or absentee. While voters of both parties have long used those methods to cast ballots, Democrats were more likely to vote remotely in 2020 — a fact that has spurred the GOP crackdown.

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