Though timing remains unclear, Texas’ Republican governor Greg Abbott has expressed his intention to reconvene the state legislature for a special session, forcing lawmakers to address so-called “election integrity” after SB7’s failure. “If the fight is still ongoing, I think most businesses are gonna hold their fire, for lack of a better term, until they understand whether or not this thing is gonna come back – and in what form, and at what pace,” said Nathan Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Blue Sky Partners, which is part of the Fair Elections Texas coalition of business and civic leaders. The sweeping legislation threatened public officials with state jail felonies for soliciting or distributing unrequested vote-by-mail applications, banned 24-hour and drive-thru voting, and made it easier to overturn an election, among other provisions.
The targeted attack on voting rights sparked national outrage, including among the local business community, until Democratic lawmakers walked out of the Texas House to block Senate Bill 7 – one of the most controversial, far-reaching measures. With a whopping 49 restrictive voting bills, Texas led a countrywide charge to undermine voter access, even as voting rights advocates warned the proposals amounted to a new version of Jim Crow and would disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color.
But their last-minute maneuver has already set the stage for legislative overtime, rendering celebrations premature and forcing risk-averse corporate executives to consider whether they’ll re-enlist in the fight for round two. “They can actually be proactive.”
An additional $16.7bn and 149,644 jobs would be lost from hits to tourism and economic development, according to economic research and analysis firm The Perryman Group. That financial blowback would persist for decades, with a cumulative drop in gross product in the trillions by 2045. It would also slice tax revenue, costing state and local entities billions. By 2025, measures restricting voter access would cause Texas to shed an estimated $14.7bn in annual gross product and more than 73,000 jobs from lower earnings, employment losses and reduced household purchasing power.
“I certainly know, when I make my travel plans, if I was thinking about going to Texas, I wouldn’t want to go,” Albright said. Already, Texas has earned the unenviable title as the hardest place to vote in the United States. Further obstacles to the polls could prove disastrous for the state’s economy, in part by making it harder to recruit workers, cutting into productive work time, alienating major events or conferences and deterring would-be tourists.
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