Despite business warnings, GOP moves ahead with voting bills

FILE - In this April 21, 2021, file photo, people opposed to Texas voter bills HB6 and SB7 hold signs during a news conference hosted by Texas Rising Action on the steps of the State Capitol in 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. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
FILE - In this April 21, 2021, file photo, people opposed to Texas voter bills HB6 and SB7 hold signs during a news conference hosted by Texas Rising Action on the steps of the State Capitol in 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. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has expressed broad support for the effort.

Texas would follow other GOP-led states, including Georgia, Iowa and Florida, where GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign voting legislation passed last week. On Monday, Kansas' Republican-led 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.