Companies Slam Voter Suppression Laws Then Donate to Their Sponsors

The companies' donations appear to contradict their public statements in support of voting rights.

Companies Slam Voter Suppression Laws Then Donate to Their Sponsors
People wait in line for early voting in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In April 2021, as Republican-controlled states began passing bills that will restrict voting in upcoming elections, cable and media giant Comcast put out a statement declaring its opposition to the measures. 

“We believe that all Americans should enjoy equitable access to secure elections and we have long supported and promoted voter education, registration and participation campaigns across the country to achieve that goal,” the company said in a statement it provided to Deadline. “Efforts to limit or impede access to this vital constitutional right for any citizen are not consistent with our values.”

In the following months, however, Comcast and its political action committees made donations to several Republican lawmakers who authored voter suppression bills that were signed into law last year. At least 19 states enacted 33 laws that further restrict access to voting in 2021, according to a recent analysis by the nonpartisan institute Brennan Center for Justice.

On October 15, Comcast donated $1,000 to Florida Sen. Dennis Baxley, the sole sponsor of SB 90, a 48-page bill that, among other measures, makes it a misdemeanor to give water—or anything else—to people waiting in line to vote in the sweltering Florida heat, similar to a restriction that first appeared in Georgia Republicans’ suppression bill. Baxter’s bill eliminates 24/7 ballot drop boxes and requires such boxes to be monitored at all times and only available during in-person voting hours. It also requires voters seeking an absentee ballot to submit a driver’s license or Social Security number and requires voters to reapply for mail ballots more often, among its many other provisions that make voting more difficult. 

The League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matter Fund, and Florida voters have filed a lawsuit to stop Baxley’s bill, which Gov. DeSantis signed into law in May. The lawsuit argues that the bill is designed to make it more difficult for seniors, minorities, and young people to vote and violates people’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. 

Comcast made several other donations to voter suppression bill sponsors after it put out its statement, Sludge found by reviewing donations to the sponsors of new restrictive voting laws identified by the Brennan Center. The company donated $1,000 in September to Alabama Republican State Representative Alan Baker, the sponsor of a new law that shortens the window of time people have for requesting an absentee ballot. It also made donations to the sponsors of new Brennan Center-identified voter suppression laws in Utah and Kansas. 

Pharmaceutical company Merck signed a pro-voting rights statement that was published as an advertisement in the New York Times on April 14. “For American democracy to work for any of us, we must ensure the right to vote for all of us,” the ad reads. “We call upon all Americans to join us in taking a nonpartisan stand for this most basic and fundamental right of all Americans.”