Wall Street sidesteps Georgia election reform debate

Financial firms and the trade associations that represent them in Washington are mostly steering clear of the political dust up over a new Georgia voting law that has pitted corporations against Republican backers of the measure.

The Georgia measure puts restrictions and identification requirements on mail-in balloting and limits ballot drop boxes, but also expands early voting. Critics say the law would make it harder for voters of color to participate in elections, while backers say it increases access to balloting and confidence in election procedures.

Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines — both headquartered in Atlanta — have come out against the bill, as have other corporations. That has drawn backlash from Georgia Republican lawmakers as well as U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said “corporations will invite serious consequences” for spreading “disinformation” about voting laws.

Recently, the U.S. House approved a bill that would expand voter registration and access while reforming campaign finance and congressional redistricting. Its fate is uncertain in the Senate, where Democrats hold a thin majority. Republicans can still filibuster most legislation.

For the most part, it appears the financial services industry is avoiding the battle over ballot access. InvestmentNews contacted 14 brokerages and trade associations. They either declined to comment on the Georgia law and the House bill or did not respond.

Morningstar Inc. joined more than 200 corporations in signing a recent statement on voting rights.

“There are hundreds of bills threatening to make voting more difficult in dozens of states nationwide,” said the statement sponsored by the Civic Alliance. “We call on elected leaders in every state capitol and in Congress to work across the aisle and ensure that every eligible American has the freedom to easily cast their ballot and participate fully in our democracy.”

Morningstar spokesperson Sarah Wirth declined to comment on the Georgia election bill but said the investment research firm promotes civic engagement.

“While we will not take a stance on individual bills, Morningstar supports efforts that ensure all eligible voters have safe and equal access to vote,” Wirth said in a statement. “We offer Morningstar employees paid time off when elections are held during working hours. We also offer employees up to two paid days off a year to volunteer either as an election worker or for a nonpartisan organization that encourages voting.”

A Merrill Lynch spokesperson referred to a general statement Bank of America chief executive Brian Moynihan made last week but declined to comment on the Georgia law.

“The right to vote — and the vital work that must be done to protect access to that right — is a fundamental principle in the United States,” Moynihan said in the statement. “Our history in fact is punctuated by the moments when we expanded that right to those to whom it had been denied too long. We must continue to right the wrongs of our past, and stand united in our advocacy for equal voting rights for all.”

A JPMorgan Chase spokesperson pointed to a statement chief executive Jamie Dimon gave to CNN last week about voting access but declined to comment on Georgia.

The firms and trade associations who declined to comment also included Morgan Stanley, BNY Mellon Pershing, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, the Investment Company Institute and the Financial Services Institute.

Raymond James, Commonwealth and UBS did not respond to a request for comment. Spokespersons for Edward Jones and Charles Schwab acknowledged a comment request but did not provide a statement.

The Georgia law is one of many that are expected to be considered by state legislatures in the wake of unrest stoked by false claims about last year’s election results by former President Donald Trump. His backers stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress was certifying his defeat by President Joe Biden.

Following the Capitol riot, Schwab shut down its corporate political action committee, which had raised money from Schwab employees to donate to House and Senate campaigns. Several other brokerages also suspended their political spending.

The post Wall Street sidesteps Georgia election reform debate appeared first on InvestmentNews.

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