Advance Notice: Briefs

Coalition calls for Michigan businesses to stop funding voter suppression

By: - December 2, 2021 2:37 pm

A group called Defend Black Voters Coalition on Thursday called on Michigan companies to cut off funding to legislators who support what they described as “voter-suppression legislation.” | Ken Coleman photo

The Defend Black Voters Coalition on Thursday in Detroit called on Michigan companies to cut off funding to legislators who support what they described as “voter suppression legislation.” 

“These businesses have made statements supporting Black Lives Matter or opposing voter suppression,” said Jennifer Disla, Detroit Action co-executive director and Defend Black Voters Coalition co-chair. “Yet, behind closed doors, those very same corporations are chasing tax breaks and anti-work legislation by contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the elected officials working to suppress the Black vote. Money speaks louder than words. They can’t have it both ways.”

The coalition includes: Detroit Action, MOSES, Michigan People’s  Campaign, Mothering Justice Action Fund, Emergent Justice, Color of Change and Community Change Action.

Disla and others called on business officials to take the “Defend MI Vote Pledge.” They mentioned General Motors, CMS Energy and DTE Energy by name. A call and email to General Motors was not returned. 

The coalition held a morning news conference at TCF Center downtown, the site of Republican protests after the 2020 presidential election that former President Donald Trump lost. Pro-Trump activists tried to stop the absentee ballot count and falsely claimed that voter fraud had occured in Detroit. The city is 79% African American. 

President Joe Biden defeated Trump in Michigan by 154,000 votes. 

“We’re holding it at the TCF Center because that was the scene of the last attempt to stop the Black vote from being counted in 2020,” said Ponsella Hardaway, Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES) executive director, and Defend Black Voters Coalition co-chair. 

In March, GOP state senators introduced a 39-bill GOP package, which many Democrats and voter rights groups have called an overall effort to suppress votes. Several of the bills have been vetoed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

However, Republicans have launched a ballot initiative with the same voting restrictions. If they collect more than 340,000 signatures, it heads to the GOP-led Legislature for approval. If the House and Senate OK the petition, as expected, Whitmer does not have the power to veto it.

A call to the Michigan Republican Party was not returned. 

The group also challenged GOP Michigan lawmakers to end efforts to reform election law. 

“I do not understand why some lawmakers in Lansing would turn back the clock,” said Joe Zimmerman, an election observer at TCF Center in 2020. “We should be honoring each other’s voices and protecting each other’s rights in this country.” 

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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