How do voter suppression laws disproportionately harm Black voters?

Recent voter suppression laws may range from stopping automatic voter registration/mail-in voting to toughening ID laws to vote. Many of these laws make it more difficult for everyone to vote, but specifically it causes even more undue burdens on Black voters who try to vote. 25% of voting-age Black Americans do not have a government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites.* Getting a government issued photo ID is not free of charge, creating a paywall for people to participate in their right to vote. Other factors such as not being able to get off work to vote, transportation to vote or to get an ID, and disenfranchisement laws all hinder Black voters from making it to the polls. When voting is more accessible, Black people are able to vote in higher percentages. For example, many Black people took advantage of early voting in the states that offered it, and felt that overall the November 2020 elections ran well. The November 2020 election historically offered many options for Americans to vote due to the pandemic, giving Black people many voting options that they never had access to before in certain states.


What is the “Suppress MI Vote” initiative?​

they call “Secure MI Vote.” It is a thinly-veiled attempt to make it harder for Black and low-income people to vote in reaction to the 2020 election in which Black voter turnout was pivotal in pushing Republicans out of office. Due to an obscure Michigan procedural law, this Republican-backed initiative is attempting to empower the Republican-controlled legislature to pass this voter suppression legislation into law over Governor Whitmer’s veto using signatures from just a small percentage of Michigan voters. The Suppress MI Vote initiative would undo much of the progress made by the landmark voting rights legislation, Proposal 3, voted into law in 2018 by an overwhelming majority of Michigan voters.

How does the Suppress MI Vote Initiative make it harder for Black people to vote?

The Suppress MI Vote Initiative would essentially toughen In-Person voting ID rules, require ID for absentee ballot applications, and require voters to request absentee ballot applications. The question above already discussed how voter suppression laws disproportionately harm Black voters and this initiative would have similar effects on Black voters in Michigan. The paywall associated with getting a government issued ID is a real issue for Black people who may not be able to afford it. Although the initiative is includes a provision to waive the State ID fee for people who cannot afford it, the burden will be on the voter to provide whatever documentation and fees are necessary to qualify for the program, creating more hurdles just to vote.* In fact, the architects of the Suppress MI Vote effort more likely included this provision as a procedural maneuver to pass a budget threshold that would stop a subsequent ballot initiative from reversing it. Taking off work to get an ID and getting transportation to a servicing facility to get an ID are just some of the roadblocks Black people may face when trying to get an ID just to vote.


What is the history of anti-Black voter suppression? How does modern voter suppression relate to Jim Crow voter suppression?

The United States of America has a long history of not allowing Black people to vote and/or creating hurdles to make it harder for Black people to vote.* Black men were given the right to vote in 1870. However, many Black men didn’t exercise their right because of barriers such as poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, and intimidation during the Jim Crow era. Poll taxes were not outlawed until 1964 when the 24th amendment was ratified. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 officially gave every adult American the right to vote regardless of race or gender. ** That essentially means, for almost 100 years, Black people were prohibited from exercising their right to vote, sometimes even faced deadly retribution if they attempted or succeeded at voting. Modern voter suppression is similar to Jim Crow voter suppression in that it creates unnecessary burdens on Black voters just to exercise their rights. For example, requiring a certain ID to vote that costs money is a form of poll tax. 



What is the Defend MI Vote Pledge?

A company taking Defend MI Vote Pledge would commit to cut off all forms of financial support to legislators supporting voter suppression, including direct contributions, contributions through conduit entities, or “revolving door” contributions where legislators or senior staff are employed in cush jobs following their time in office. Michigan vote-suppressing legislators can remove themselves from the list by publicly reversing their positions and committing to vote against future voter suppression bills, including the so-called “Secure MI Vote” initiative the Republicans have backed to bypass the Governor’s veto.

What if one of these companies supports both sides?

The DBV Coalition recognizes that corporations give to both sides, often depending on who’s in power. But supporting good elected officials doesn’t provide an excuse for supporting the bad ones that are cynically undermining the health and safety of the Black community by suppressing their vote.

Is this a political party issue?

No. This is about standing together against rich and powerful forces to defend an attack on Black communities, working class people, and democracy.

How did you choose these corporations to focus on?

Core targets were chosen by the DBV steering committee based on a combination of 1) their political contributions to legislators strategically making it harder for Black people to vote, 2) the company’s presence in and/or marketing to the Black community, and 3) the company’s hypocritical statements in support of Black lives or against voter suppression.

Will the Defend Black Voters Coalition engage other corporate contributors to voter suppression?

Yes. Once our initial targets take the Defend MI Vote Pledge, the steering committee will work with partners to choose more core targets to move to take the pledge until we’ve moved enough legislators to reverse their position on voter suppression to stop the “Suppress MI Vote” initiative.

Should a company be responsible for the donations of it’s affiliated political action committee (PAC) if all of the political contributions are funded by employee donations and not from corporate coffers?

All corporate PACs are funded by employees of the company, and corporations themselves can’t contribute directly to PACs under federal election law. In Michigan, corporations can’t directly fund candidates at all. But in practice, and by design, there is rarely space between the corporation and the employee PAC. Just because the political contributions are funded by employees, that doesn’t mean that corporate executives aren’t deciding what politicians get contributions. Further, while corporations don’t fund PACs directly from their treasuries, they are allowed to cover expenses incurred by their affiliated PAC, including staff salaries, fundraising expenses and administrative costs. They are also allowed to spend treasury dollars to create incentives for their employees to fund the PAC, and in fact often do everything in their power to “encourage” employees to give. 

Does corporate giving to charities or service organizations in the Black community make up for contributing to elected officials that are strategically targeting Black voters?

No. Political contributions influence our government, which fundamentally controls what happens in our communities. Supporting elected officials that are taking away our right to an equal say in our government far eclipses the impact of any charitable giving. 

The Defend Black Voters Coalition

Community Change Action is the convening partner of the Defend Black Voters Coalition