May 18, 2021 - Technology

Google and the GOP's push to restrict votes

Illustration of a hand holding a protest sign with a google search on it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Google is among several big U.S. companies criticized in a report Monday for taking part in an April meeting of Republican state leaders that focused on efforts to pass new restrictions on voting.

Why it matters: Google has publicly said it is opposed to bills that would make voting harder, but it's also trying to engage with both Democrats and Republicans and some of that latter group are working hard to pass such bills in a number of states.

Driving the news: Popular Information reported that a Google representative, along with policy officials from Deloitte and Citigroup, were listed as participants in an April 6 meeting of a policy working group being led by the Republican State Leadership Committee's "election integrity committee."

  • A week earlier, top Google policy executive Kent Walker had stated Google's concern over such state laws and the company's support for a proposed national voting rights act.

The big picture: Under intense scrutiny, tech companies have been eager to show they aren't playing political favorites when it comes to Republicans and Democrats. At the same time, they have also tried to paint themselves as opposed state-level efforts to make voting harder.

  • The Republican Party push to promote such legislation in the name of election security has placed these two efforts at odds.

Quick take: It's clear why Big Tech companies want to stay involved with both major parties — especially with the threat of regulation and legislation looming. However, Google appears to want to have its cake and eat it too by funding a group actively trying to enact legislation it says it opposes.

What they're saying: Google acknowledges donating to the Republican group in 2020 but maintains it's not an active participant in the effort to make voting more difficult. Rather, it says it donated to leadership groups of both parties in 2020 as part of an effort to inform the groups about the company's election tools and services."

  • Along with many other companies, one of our representatives attended a Republican Secretaries meeting to understand whether our products would be discussed," Google said in a statement to Axios. "When it became clear they weren't going to be, he left."

What's next: Google is said to be evaluating whether it will continue contributing to the group.

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