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Businesses Need the Freedom to Vote Act

Our country was founded on the premise of the freedom of its citizens from the arbitrary over-reach of a monarch. Thanks to the will of our people and our strong and resilient economy, we have enjoyed the independence we celebrate every July 4. Sadly, our freedom faces the same risk today as it did nearly 250 years ago, however, today’s threat to our democracy is home grown.

Echoing President Biden, who earlier this week said in a speech about threats to voting rights, “I’m tired of being quiet,” our members, including businesses in Arizona, are voicing their concern because they know that without democracy functioning, the risk to independent businesses is existential. Gayle Shanks, who owns and operates Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix and Tempe, spoke to us before dawn one day last week to voice her concern and volunteered to speak up for like-minded entrepreneurs.

Local and beyond sign

Like other business owners and residents of Arizona, Ms. Shanks knows that democracy and a sustainable economy enjoy a symbiotic relationship. A risk to one is a risk to the other. Which is why she and other business owners openly support Senate passage of the Freedom to Vote Act to establish minimum requirements for how states conduct federal elections. These include the expansion of voter registration, requirement of a minimum number of days and hours for early voting, and creation of a nationwide right to vote by mail.

In 1776 the country’s founders knew their system was far from perfect and openly said they were trying to create a more perfect union and we have a history of including the voices of those who make these united states a better functioning democracy. The abolition of slavery, extension of citizenship, and allowing women to vote as recently as last century are signs of our progress to be less imperfect, and attempts to silence voices by allowing voting restrictions is a dangerous step backwards for businesses. Ms. Shanks and we as business operators need options such as the mail-in-vote and extended voting hours to participate in our democracy while supporting our economy.

Man smiling

Entrepreneurship depends on a democracy in which people know that if they have a good idea to serve a market need and are willing to sacrifice and work diligently, their idea can become a successful, profitable business for themselves, their families, and their communities. The Senate must do its part to protect every eligible American’s right to vote and guarantee that election results are respected by passing fair and transparent voting rights legislation.

Failing to pass voting rights legislation that protects our democracy threatens our economy. Allowed to continue, these anti-democracy actions will result in an autocratic government favoring politically-connected special interests that will sap the will of the entrepreneurs who drive our local, state, and national economies. So, the next time you visit your favorite local business, thank them for voicing their opinion about your right to vote.

Gayle Shanks is the owner of Changing Hands Bookstores, with locations in Phoenix and Tempe.
Valerie Red-Horse Mohl, of Cherokee heritage, is Co-Chair of the American Sustainable Business Network; Co-Founder of Known Holdings, CFO of East Bay Community Foundation, and CEO/Founder of Red-Horse Financial Group.
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