We are writing to urge you to cease your association with, and end your funding of, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) based on its active efforts to restrict the American people’s freedom to vote and spread lies about the integrity of our elections to undermine American democracy.
Faced with public outrage over legislation that creates barriers to voting rights enacted or proposed in more than 47 states, and the bills’ disproportionate impact on people of color, young people, and the elderly, hundreds of companies have publicly denounced any discriminatory legislation that makes it harder for people to vote. Perhaps your company is one of them.
Nonetheless, your participation in ALEC serves to promote and legitimize the group’s anti-democratic efforts to create more barriers to voting.
Despite claiming it would stop working on electoral issues in 2012, ALEC has reengaged on highly controversial policies related to elections and redistricting in recent years, perhaps without your company’s knowledge. In 2019, ALEC created a secret working group on redistricting, ballot measures, and election law, known as the “ALEC Political Process Working Group.”
The group is led in part by Cleta Mitchell, a controversial attorney who has spread disinformation about the results of the 2020 election and served as a legal advisor to former President Trump as he secretly pushed election officials in Georgia to overturn the results of a free and fair election.iv Another leader of ALEC’s secret working group is Arizona state Representative Shawnna Bolick, who recently proposed a bill to allow the state legislature to overturn the results of a presidential election.
ALEC’s own CEO, Lisa Nelson, said in February 2020 that ALEC was already working with state legislators on efforts to challenge the 2020 election results and “question the validity of an election.” Nelson’s comments were made nine months before the election even took place. Then, in June 2020, ALEC held an exclusive call for its members on the topic of mail-in voting featuring the Honest Elections Projectvii, a group that pushes voter restriction laws and which spread disinformation about the integrity of mail-in voting during the 2020 election. But ALEC’s spread of disinformation about voting pre-dates the 2020 election cycle. In 2017, ALEC hosted a panel featuring three members of former President Trump’s disbanded and discredited election integrity commission (Hans von Spakowsky, J. Christian Adams, and Christy McCormick), where they made unfounded claims of voter fraud and pushed for legislation to restrict the right to vote.
Make no mistake, ALEC and its allies’ involvement in spreading disinformation about voting and undermining the integrity of our elections led to the violent insurrection we witnessed on January 6th at the U.S. Capitol. And now your company’s funding and support of ALEC is being used to pass new Jim Crow-style anti-voter laws at the state level and block federal voting reform from passing in Congress.
In March 2021, ALEC held a briefing with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), one of the leading proponents to reject the results of the 2020 election, on a strategy to oppose a bill expanding access to the ballot box in Congress and support the national campaign to restrict voting rights at the state level. U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has also recently said that he has “been speaking to legislators through ALEC” about election and voting-related policies.
In an internal memo, Heritage Action, an advocacy group leading the effort to pass voting restrictions at the state level, recently wrote that ALEC would be a key policy and lobbying partner in their multi-year campaign to push anti-voter laws, many of which specifically target and limit voting access for people of color, young people, and the elderly.One report has identified more than 100 state legislators connected to ALEC that are lead sponsors or co-sponsors of bills that limit voting access in Georgia, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas in 2021 alone.
In addition to restricting the freedom to vote, ALEC has also been actively promoting partisan gerrymandering strategies, despite the group’s nonpartisan, tax-exempt status. The public has little information about ALEC’s secret working group on elections, but in October 2019 Slate obtained an audio recording, documenting that ALEC was instructing state legislators how to gerrymander districts that benefit themselves and obscure the public’s access and knowledge about their work. According to the Texas Observer, speakers at a 2019 ALEC conference encouraged legislators to throw away notes and avoid saying things in email on redistricting that they do not want the public to see, further undermining transparency in the redistricting process.
The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky -- a frequent speaker at ALEC conferences who has been described as a “polarizing figure in voting rights circles” by The Washington Post for his work that has “led to disenfranchisement among poor and minority groups” -- encouraged legislators to use “citizen voting age population” in redistricting to skew the process to help Republicans win elections. This partisan admission is similar to that of Thomas Hofeller, the longtime Republican redistricting operative responsible for drawing many of the GOP-favored gerrymandered maps from the last few decades. Hofeller urged the use of citizen voting age population so redistricting would be “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”
Also in 2019, ALEC filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court defending the Virginia legislature’s racial gerrymanders, which were ultimately struck down as unconstitutional. And in 2018, ALEC adopted a “model” resolution stating that redistricting powers should remain with partisan politicians and the courts should not be able to provide relief to voters who have been discriminatorily gerrymandered.
Your continued financial support of ALEC is an active endorsement of these efforts to create more barriers to the freedom to vote and weaken representation for the American people in government. Intended or not, the money your company is contributing to ALEC helps fund this modern Jim Crow effort.
Since its founding, ALEC has had a long history of pushing anti-voter and anti-democratic laws that limit the people’s ability to participate in our democracy. One of ALEC’s first leaders, Paul Weyrich, famously said:
“I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."
In 2012, after facing backlash for advocating for legislation that would restrict voting rights, particularly for people of color, ALEC told its members, donors, and the public it would no longer work on electoral issues and disbanded its “Public Safety and Elections Task Force.”
Now, ALEC has broken that promise. Apparently having forgotten their lesson, ALEC has rejoined the ranks of hyper-partisan organizations perpetuating the “Big Lie” and is actively working to undermine American democracy and restrict the people’s right to vote.
We, the undersigned organizations, work on a variety of issues and don’t always agree on every policy, but we all believe in a strong American democracy, where every eligible American is able to exercise their freedom to vote in free, fair, and safe elections. We believe that building a democracy that works for everyone is going to take all of us in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.
At a time when ALEC-backed legislation to undermine the right to vote has provoked unprecedented public and corporate outrage, we urge your company to immediately cease all funding and sever all ties with ALEC. We also urge your company to publicly oppose any efforts that create more barriers to voting and undermine confidence in our democratic institutions.
See Attached Letter for Full List of Signatories