Republican lawmakers in Florida, who received corporate support from Disney and other major corporations during their campaigns, are now sponsoring a number of bills that could restrict access to voting in the main swing state.
The Brennan Center for Justice lists three proposals from Florida that they say, in their current form, would amount to voter suppression. State lawmakers sponsoring these bills have received contributions from media giants Disney and Charter, GEO Group’s prison giant, insurance company Geico and trip planner Expedia, and CenturyLink and other massive corporations. CenturyLink changed its name to Lumen Technologies in 2020. These companies have so far remained silent on the subject of voting rights.
Although former President Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden in the Florida 2020 election, both parties have consistently put the state at the top of their election target lists. In last year’s election, millions were spent in the state by billionaire Mike Bloomberg and others.
States’ move to push new electoral law comes after Trump falsely claimed the election was directed against him and tried to reverse the results. Florida-based bills range from restrictions on the use of electronic voting books by electoral officials to increased security on Dropboxes.
Corporations have been under pressure to respond since Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed what was critically viewed as discriminatory law that would restrict minority communities’ access to elections. Major League Baseball announced that it would move its all-star game out of Atlanta in protest. And several companies have spoken out against the law, including Delta and Coca-Cola.
Business leaders like the founder of Dell Technologies, Michael Dell, have also responded to proposed new electoral laws from Texas.
Republican leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Have pushed back companies that recently spoke out. “Corporations will have dire consequences if they become a means for left-wing mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order,” McConnell said in a statement Monday. “Corporations must not use economic blackmail to spread disinformation and put bad ideas that citizens reject to the ballot box.”
Aside from public statements by companies denouncing the ballot papers, there is no indication that they will stop funding legislators’ campaigns to develop these proposals. A study by Public Citizen found that since 2015, companies have given $ 50 million to “state lawmakers supporting bills to suppress voters, including $ 22 million during the 2020 election cycle.”
As of 2018, Disney has contributed more than $ 8,000 to the campaigns of the three lawmakers who sponsored similar ballots for Florida. This is evident from the financial records for government campaigns verified by CNBC. The company has not returned a request to comment on whether they will continue to support these legislators in the future or whether they will oppose the bills.
The Public Citizen Report says that Disney has donated $ 28,000 to various Florida state senators since 2015 to support a bill that could suppress the vote. The Walt Disney World Resort is located in the Sunshine State.
The GEO Group, which builds and invests in prisons across the country, has also been a major donor to Florida lawmakers who sponsored restrictive electoral laws. The GEO Group is headquartered in Florida.
The company has donated more than $ 3,000 to state lawmakers since 2018 that support potentially restrictive voting laws. The Florida State Records list the campaign submissions received from GEO Care, which, according to its website, “offers a comprehensive approach to managing, rehabilitating and treating people in safe environments and across the community.”
The Public Citizen Report reveals that the GEO Group donated $ 19,000 to lawmakers supporting a new voting law.
Geico, the insurance giant, gave at least $ 3,000 to one of the sponsors of a new voting law, records show.
The GEO Group has not returned a request for comment. Neither does Expedia, Lumen or Geico. Charter declined to comment.
The bills themselves are likely to contain hurdles for voters and electoral officials when passed into law.
One of the bills was tabled on January 14, days after the deadly Capitol Hill riot and after Congress confirmed Biden’s college victory.
Among the bills on many topics it says: “From 2022 and for each subsequent election, an electronic ballot book may only be used as a district register if it is approved.” An electronic ballot book is often used by election officials to get information about voters. Any obstacles to accessing such equipment could hinder election officials.
Another bill tabled in the State House Chamber last month is currently under consideration by the Grants Committee. The bill calls for additional security in Florida drop boxes where voters can submit postal ballot papers.
“A secure Dropbox in a supervisor’s office must be monitored personally by a supervisor or a sworn law enforcement officer during regular office hours,” says the bill.
“During other hours, a secure dropbox in a supervisor’s office may only be accessible if it is tamper-evident and monitored by video surveillance. The supervisor must keep a record of the video surveillance of these secure dropboxes and send a copy to a candidate or political party who submit a written request for the recordings within 24 hours of receiving such a request, “the invoice continues.
The bill also states that voters using a Dropbox must show their Florida driver’s license or ID ID to the employee or law enforcement officer who monitors the Dropbox. The agent or law enforcement officer must ensure that the address on the ID is the same as the residential address printed on the mailing envelope. “
NBC News reported in March that the same bill would ban the delivery of “items” at polling stations, similar to a provision in Georgia’s new law.
The third bill was recently criticized by the editorial staff of the Miami Herald. The paper says the bill would limit postal voting to one election cycle, while the current law allows postal requests in Florida to remain current for two general election cycles.
Critics say that with these types of bills flowing through state legislatures nationwide, corporations must go further than make statements and withhold campaign contributions.
“Look at the deadly uprising in the capital on January 6, the refusal to accept the election results, followed by the legislation restricting voting rights. It really got people going,” said Bruce Freed, president of the bipartisan center for political accountability tracking corporate money in politics. “Corporations are involved in it because of the money they have given politically. They are seen as capable of making this possible with their contributions.”