“STAY OUT OF POLITICS,” warned Mitch McConnell, the senate’s top Republican, representing Kentucky. It was a message to the American business community in response to the condemnation by some prominent business leaders of a new law in Georgia that suppresses black votes. Though he later softened his rebuke, other elected officials and conservative voices have echoed the sentiment. But it is misguided. Companies have a vested interest in the soundness of American democracy—and are obligated to use their voice and influence when core principles of democracy are threatened.
Among the most central tenets of democracy is the right of every eligible citizen to have access to vote and to have that vote counted. The right to vote is, as the Supreme Court explained in 1886, “preservative of all rights” and fundamental to our democratic character. It is why businesses are speaking out to protect its sanctity.
The century-long effort to deny that right to black people after the Civil War remains one of the most shameful periods of American history. The powerful demands of the civil-rights movement, which resulted in the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, began to unlock the stranglehold of Jim Crow laws in the South, which kept black people from casting a ballot. Those laws—such as the poll tax and literacy test—were put forward as neutral, but enacted with full knowledge that they would disproportionately thwart black voters (like Georgia’s voting law, which restricts early voting and the use of drop boxes, and makes it illegal to hand out water to people waiting in line to vote, among other things).
Read the full piece from The Economist here.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization. LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Follow LDF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.