Wayne State University Board of Governors member Bryan Barnhill II is calling on his colleagues to demand that companies with contracts with the school stop supporting lawmakers who undermine democracy.
Barnhill supports a measure proposed by Defend Black Voters that would discourage companies from donating to state lawmakers who push for restrictions on voting and spread lies about voter fraud.
“I ran for the Wayne State Board of Governors in 2018 because it is an institution that matters to my community. By serving this great institution, I serve my people. Barnhill said in a statement. “What I didn’t become governor for was to sit idly by while Wayne State dollars fund extremist politicians who try to make it harder for my community to vote. I cannot remain silent about this.
Voting rights advocates on Friday urged the board to pass the measure.
One of the companies with a big contract with Wayne State is Michigan’s Blue Cross Blue Shield, which has paid around $329,000 to politicians who have lobbied for “Jim Crow-style voter suppression” in Michigan since 2016. according to the Defend Black Voters Coalition. During the same period, the BCBSM donated $355,000 to party committees supporting these lawmakers.
The analysis found that the BCBSM is “the biggest corporate contributor to lawmakers pushing extreme legislation that could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters of color.”
Even so, in April 2021, the health insurance giant was among three dozen major Michigan employers who called on lawmakers to stop trying to restrict voting access.
“Now, more than ever, it is time that we elevate our nation’s interest above our individual and corporate interests,” Barnhill said. “Now is the time to align our actions with our values. As individuals, this means organizing against those who support anti-democratic and anti-civil rights legislation. As companies, that means not supporting politicians who betray our country’s most cherished principles. I call on everyone, Democrat and Republican, and every institution, including Wayne State, to do the same.”
Since the 2020 presidential election, the Republican-led State House and Senate have introduced dozens of bills that would restrict access to voting in Michigan. To justify the restrictions, lawmakers peddled baseless conspiracy theories about voter fraud, eroding residents’ faith in the election.
“This thinly veiled effort, which the legislature could vote on by the end of the year, uses the Big Lie as an excuse to push a set of voter restrictions designed to make it disproportionately harder for black and low-income Michiganders to exercise their freedom to vote,” Scott Holiday, political director of Detroit Action, said at Friday’s meeting. “In December 2021, we asked the six largest corporations that fund extremist Michigan state legislators supporting voter suppression to support their publicly stated positions on voting rights and racial justice. These companies include two major suppliers to Wayne State: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Delta Dental of Michigan. »
Barnhill’s proposal is similar to one approved by the Wayne County Board of Commissioners in July.
Last month the Michigan State University’s board of trustees considered a similar proposal but tabled the measure after state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey threatened to withdraw funding from public universities.