Detroit Automakers Just Blasted the Michigan GOP’s Voter Suppression Plans

Ford, General Motors, and dozens of other companies put out a joint statement, writing that it was their responsibility to speak up.
April 13, 2021, 4:57pm
Protestors who want every vote counted from the 2020 presidential election, march down Woodward Avenue on November 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan.​
Protestors who want every vote counted from the 2020 presidential election, march down Woodward Avenue on November 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

Michigan’s largest and most iconic companies aren’t happy that their state’s Republicans are trying to make it harder to vote.

Ford, General Motors, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Quicken Loans, and more than 30 of Michigan’s other largest companies put out a joint statement Tuesday opposing voting restrictions that Republicans are looking to rush into law.

"We represent Michigan’s largest companies, many of which operate on a national basis. We feel a responsibility to add our voice as changes are proposed to voting laws in Michigan and other states," the statement said.

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The announcement, obtained by the Detroit News, outlines a number of shared principles:

  • The right to vote is a sacred, inviolable right of American citizens.
  • Democracy is strongest when participation is greatest.
  • Safe and secure voting options are vital.
  • Government must support equitable access to the ballot.
  • Government must avoid actions that reduce participation in elections, particularly among historically disenfranchised communities.
  • Election laws must be developed in a bipartisan fashion.

The joint statement comes as Republicans look to ram through voting restrictions in Michigan and other states across the nation, spurred on by former President Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen. Civil rights groups and Democrats are pushing large companies to publicly oppose voter suppression efforts.

Their response shows how much the political winds have shifted on this issue: Ford, GM, and Quicken were all major donors to President Trump’s 2017 inauguration fund. Large companies have historically tried to avoid controversial political issues, so the latest foray into voting rights is a major shift. The real test will be whether these companies put their money where their mouths are: If they refuse to donate to Republicans who back these efforts, it will matter a lot more than a statement.

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Dozens of major corporate CEOs met via Zoom over the weekend to discuss how to respond to a rash of GOP voter-suppression efforts. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Republican state legislators have introduced at least 361 different bills that would restrict voting access in 47 different states.

The statement from the Michigan companies is a major warning to state Republicans. The GOP-controlled state Senate plans to begin hearings on a number of voting-related bills on Wednesday. That legislation includes new requirements for voters to mail in a copy of their ID with their ballot application, a ban on the state sending out mail ballot application forms unless voters request them, a shorter deadline for returning ballots by mail, measures that would bar local clerks from paying postage on absentee ballots, and restrictions on dropboxes.

Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, vehemently opposes those efforts. But Michigan Republicans plan to try to use a loophole in state law that would prevent Whitmer from vetoing their legislation. If they can get 340,000 signatures on a petition to consider the legislation, the Legislature can pass a bill that Whitmer can’t block.

Michigan voters passed a constitutional amendment by a two-to-one margin in 2018 to allow mail voting in the state. The GOP’s current legislation would be a major rollback of those efforts. 

Michigan companies aren’t the only ones to go public about their opposition to state GOP bills that restrict voting, but they are part of what appears to be a new strategy to speak up when it’s early enough to matter.

After Georgia Republicans quickly passed a law that created new voting restrictions, local behemoths Delta and Coca Cola condemned the effort—but it was too little, too late. Activists are now trying to make sure the same doesn’t happen in dozens of other states where Republicans are pushing restrictive laws that would make it harder to vote.