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More than 150 companies back update to Voting Rights Act

Major businesses like PepsiCo, Macy's, Ikea and Nestlé USA signed on to a letter supporting the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Image: President Joe Biden speaks about voting rights at the National Constitution Center on July 13, 2021 in Philadelphia.
President Joe Biden speaks about voting rights at the National Constitution Center on Tuesday in Philadelphia.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

More than 150 companies, including PepsiCo, Amazon and Target, threw their support behind updating the Voting Rights Act in a letter released Wednesday.

The signatories, all U.S. employers, urged Congress to enact the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, legislation that would restore a key provision of the 1965 law that was stripped out by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill would again require jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get permission from the Department of Justice to make changes to their elections, using an updated formula to determine those jurisdictions.

The letter made no mention of Republican efforts to tighten voting rules across the country after former President Donald Trump's election loss, focusing instead on "deep inequities" exposed by the 2020 contest in "how our elections are run."

"Despite decades of progress, impediments to exercising the right to vote persist in many states, especially for communities of color. We need federal protections to safeguard this fundamental right for all Americans," the letter, obtained by NBC News, said.

The legislation was named in honor of Rep. John Lewis, the longtime Democratic congressman from Georgia and leader of the civil rights movement who died last year. It was passed by the House last Congress, but that bill and the For the People Act, a more sweeping Democratic-led voting measure, face long odds in the Senate.

President Joe Biden, who has faced growing pressure from Democratic activists and even close allies to more aggressively push the issue of voting access, repeated his call for Congress to pass those bills in a speech Tuesday.

The letter comes after dozens of Texas Democrats fled the state for Washington to try to block a restrictive voting law from being passed. The members of the state House will attempt to run out the clock on a special session of the legislature while lobbying Congress for federal legislation, particularly the For the People Act.

Several signatories, including PepsiCo, Macy’s, Ikea, and Nestlé USA, appear to be taking a stand on voting access and federal voting legislation for the first time, while other signatories, such as Amazon, Patagonia, Cisco and Target, have spoken out against voting restrictions.

This spring, hundreds of corporations and business leaders voiced support for voting rights and opposed Republican-led restrictions being considered or enacted in states like Georgia and Texas.

Last month, more than 70 companies said they supported passage of the For the People Act, Democrats' priority piece of voting legislation. It was filibustered by Senate Republicans the very next day.

In July, the Supreme Court upheld two GOP-backed voting laws in Arizona in a ruling that voting rights experts said will make it much harder to challenge discriminatory voting laws, particularly under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans voting policies that result in racial discrimination.