"We can all agree a healthy democracy and vibrant economy depend on participation in our election system free from discriminatory practices," the businesses wrote in the letter, which was published with advocacy groups Vote.org, When We All Vote, and Declaration for American Democracy.
The letter is in part a response to bills introduced this year in state legislatures to restrict voting--389 of them in 48 states this session, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a left-leaning think tank.
One of the bills the businesses are supporting, the For the People Act of 2021, would expand voter registration and install independent redistricting commissions, among other provisions. It passed in the House in March and is scheduled for a procedural vote in the Senate on Tuesday.
Republicans have widely panned the bill, and shot down Senator Joe Manchin's (D-W.Va.) more limited proposal, arguing that it prevents states from exercising the right to run their own elections. Without GOP support, Democrats will not be able to overcome a filibuster and bring the measure up for a vote.
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, vice president for development at the Brennan Center, says the letter highlights a continued increase in political advocacy among businesses. "Their voice matters here," she says. "It's really an important shift in our American political story."
Taking a stand in such matters can benefit a company's bottom line. A 2021 report by Cambridge, Massachusetts, research and consulting firm Forrester found that 43 percent of consumers, when given the choice between two products, would prefer the one made by a business that publicly promotes its own political values.
Some companies on the list, like Ben and Jerry's and Patagonia, have long had a reputation for political advocacy. One CEO who signed the letter, &Pizza's Michael Lastoria, says he's optimistic, despite the For the People Act's uncertain future in Congress. "Every voice counts in a battle like this one," he told Inc. "If there is no accountability through free elections, the people running this country will only answer to the interests of a small subset of people, and that subset does not include your small business."