CEOs attempt non-partisan approach over voting rights

April 15, 2021, 10:28 AM UTC

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Good morning.

CEOs took another step into the battle over voting practices yesterday, with full page advertisements in several newspapers under the headline: “We Stand for Democracy.”  The ad avoided explicitly criticizing any of the Republican-sponsored bills in multiple states, or supporting federal legislation backed by Democrats. Instead, its long list of signatories simply said they oppose “any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.”

Driving this effort are a group of Black CEOs and ex-CEOs including Ken Frazier of Merck; Roger Ferguson, formerly of TIAA; Ken Chenault, formerly of American Express; and Ursula Burns, formerly of Xerox. The list of companies that signed on with them is long; you can peruse it online. Easier to spotlight some who didn’t sign: JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon, Walmart’s Doug McMillon, and the two CEOs who got caught in Georgia’s political battle, James Quincey of Coca-Cola and Ed Bastian of Delta. The challenge for all is how to take a principled stand on voting rights without getting chewed up in the fierce partisan crossfire.

While maximizing access to the polls might seem like a motherhood and apple pie issue, it isn’t universally perceived that way. My former colleagues at the Pew Research Center have a pair of questions that get to the substance of the issue nicely:

Which statements come closer to your own views—even if neither is exactly right?

1) Everything possible should be done to make it easy for every citizen to voter, or 
2) Citizens should have to prove they really want to vote by registering ahead of time.

1) It would not make elections any less secure if election rules were changed to make it easier to register and vote, or
2) If election rules were changed to make it easier to register and vote, that would also make elections less secure.

Majorities of Americans chose answer 1) in both cases, including more than 80% of Democrats. But 71% of Republicans chose answer 2) to the first question, and 61% chose answer 2) to the second question.

So while the CEOs say they are taking a “nonpartisan” stand, it’s no surprise partisans see it otherwise.

Separately, while JP Morgan is staying off the voting rights pledge, it is announcing today a major new effort on sustainability. The bank is committing $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years to address climate change and sustainable development needs. As I’ve said here before, 2021 is shaping up to be a clear inflection point for business commitments to address climate problems.

More news below.

Alan Murray


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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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