GM, Ford, and DTE Among Companies Funding Michigan Republicans Behind Voter Suppression Measure

Michigan Republicans took a step to pass restrictive voting laws using a state quirk that dodges both voters and a gubernatorial veto.

GM, Ford, and DTE Among Companies Funding Michigan Republicans Behind Voter Suppression Measure
The General Motors logo is displayed at a Chevrolet dealership.

The Defend Black Voters Coalition is running a grassroots campaign calling on large Michigan companies to drop their financial support for state lawmakers who are trying to pass laws that could make it harder for people to vote.

Michigan Republicans are attempting to enact a package of voting restrictions they call Secure MI Vote by using a quirk in Michigan law that allows legislators to use the ballot measure process to bypass both voters and the potential of a gubernatorial veto. If the Republicans can get enough signatures to have the measure approved for the ballot, the legislature is allowed by the state Constitution to pass the proposal by a simple majority before it appears on the ballot, and the Constitution also provides for such measures to be immune from vetoes. The Secure MI Vote ballot initiative would require a photo ID for in-person voting and absentee ballot applications, ban the mass distribution of absentee ballot applications, and prohibit state and local election officials from accepting election funding from private parties, among other things.

The state Republicans claim it’s needed to secure election integrity, but Michigan nonpartisan pro-democracy organization Voters Not Politicians says the measure is designed to disenfranchise voters. “From day 1, the campaign has made clear that this is a package of voter suppression bills disguised as a citizen initiative,” Voters Not Politicians’ executive director Nancy Wang said in a statement to MLive.

A new report from the Defend Black Voters Coalition, shared with Sludge, found that the six largest corporate donors in Michigan have contributed nearly $1.5 million since the 2016 election cycle to state Republicans who have voted for at least one of the five election-related bills in the Michigan Legislature that have been rolled into the ballot measure proposal or taken a public position backing the Secure MI Vote measures. More than $126,000 in donations to the GOP politicians has come from these six companies so far in 2022, while the Defend Black Voters Coalition campaign has been in full swing, including with a series of protest actions at a prominent business conference on Mackinac Island earlier this summer.

The six companies targeted in the campaign—Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Delta Dental of Michigan, Ford, General Motors, and utility companies DTE Energy and Consumers Energy—have all put out statements supporting equitable access to the ballot box and endorsing principles of racial justice. For example, the CEOs of Ford, General Motors, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and DTE Energy signed an April 2021 statement urging the government to avoid disenfranchising voters. “The right to vote is a sacred, inviolable right of American citizens,” the statement read. “Government must avoid actions that reduce participation in elections – particularly among historically disenfranchised communities, persons with disabilities, older adults, racial minorities and low-income voters.” 

The Defend Black Voters Coalition has been calling on the companies to join a pledge to halt donations to any politician who supports voter suppression bills. The pledge also calls on corporate leaders to promise not to employ former elected officials who backed the restrictive voting measures or their senior staff, and to drop out of trade associations that won’t take similar steps, among other things.

The coalition’s new analysis found that insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan continues to be the top contributor since the 2016 cycle to the group of 80 Republican state legislators who have voted for at least one of five restrictive bills, making almost $400,000 in contributions.