Opinion: Protecting voting rights isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business


A strong democracy is not only vital for America’s moral fabric, but also for our economic future. Democratically accountable governments provide a level playing field for all market participants and ensure competition, as well as help protect businesses from fraud and deception.

Without equal enfranchisement at the ballot box, the American dream of big ideas—which become thriving enterprises and result in social mobility, greater opportunities, and a better life for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren—is nothing more than a dream.

As investors, we understand this inherent link between a strong democracy and a healthy economy, and that the foundation of a strong democracy is voter participation.

As Richard Doner, professor emeritus at Emory University, declares, “unequal voting means unequal opportunities and a smaller middle class,” a result which would unequivocally chill economic activity. A smaller middle class reduces market demand, decreases earnings potential, and undermines confidence in capitalism. Currently, there are approximately 400 proposed state bills that would seek to constrain access to the polls, particularly for working-class Americans and Americans of color, that carry with them significant risk for business. Should these bills become law, we face a grave threat to long-term economic growth.

Senate Republicans have blocked Democrats from moving forward with election legislation, but Democrats insist they’ll continue to push the effort. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains how it could play out. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

While asset management firms have historically chosen a bottom-line approach to business, Trillium Asset Management has shown that a values-based approach can result in financial success. And we’re not alone. A 2016 University of Gothenburg study found that strong voter participation, combined with other elements of a healthy democracy, are correlated to positive stock-market returns

Because of the clear business case for strong democratic institutions, we urged large employers such as Apple
Bank of America
and PNC
to provide paid time-off for their nearly 400,000 U.S. employees to vote in the 2020 election. Indeed, more and more companies have realized that providing paid time- off to vote leads to greater employee engagement, worker retention and recruitment, and brand value. It has become a business imperative.

Alongside these powerful business imperatives, we also know that actively supporting the right to vote is unquestionably the right and just thing to do. We firmly believe that, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or language, one thing is clear: we all value the right to vote and believe that all eligible Americans should have access to this fundamental right.

That’s why we must take action now to make the promise of democracy real—to ensure that the people of this nation can fairly and freely choose their representatives and have their voices heard.

As investors, we understand this inherent link between a strong democracy and a healthy economy, and that the foundation of a strong democracy is voter participation. That is why we are calling on Congress to introduce and pass legislation, such as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Congress has no greater responsibility than to work together to secure our democratic institutions, to defend American values, and to pass a bill that protects the right to vote for all eligible Americans. The strength of our economy and the promise of the American dream depend on it.

 Matthew Patsky is the CEO and Jonas Kron is the chief advocacy officer of Trillium Asset Management, which offers asset strategies and services that advance humankind toward a global sustainable economy, a just society, and a better world. They are also members of Business for Voting Rights, a group of over 200 companies across the country that is urging Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act this session.

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