When the Founding Fathers made their way to Philadelphia to craft the Constitution, they couldn’t Google Maps their way there. In the 1770s, the electric telegraph and the submarine were the latest and greatest in innovation. Yet the American democratic ideals formed centuries ago laid the foundation for Silicon Valley’s innovations today.
Democracy has always been about access — giving everyone an opportunity to make their voice heard. Technology has always been about expanding access, too: access to goods, services, education, information, speech, and opportunity. That commitment to access was the impetus for some corporate leaders to sign a letter protesting states’ recent efforts to restrict access to the ballot box. But much more needs to be done.
After all, the greatest innovations to come out of the Valley over the past two decades have all had one thing in common: they expanded access. Whether that’s Wikipedia building the most comprehensive compendium of human knowledge we’ve ever known, or companies like Shopify and Stripe dramatically reducing the barriers to e-commerce, technology empowers us to open more doors into our world.
Our values as tech innovators mirror those of the democracy we live in: access, universality, and voice. But what good is technology without a country in which everyone has a full voice in how we are governed? The right to vote is foundational to our democracy. It’s now more important than ever for leaders in tech who believe in increasing access to goods, services, and opportunity to stand up for our fundamental right to access the vote.
Speaking out is an important step, but defending democracy takes bold action. The right to vote ought to be free, fair, and unconditional. That means making it simple for every eligible voter to use their voice — to make voting as easy as ordering food on DoorDash.
Unfortunately, we’re now seeing that one of our two major political parties is increasingly opposed to the simple idea of participatory democracy and easy voting. Rather than wage a fair contest of ideas at the ballot box, they’re working hard in many states to change the rules — all in the name of Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” about the election.
We’re seeing disenfranchisement bills crammed through state legislatures on unfounded claims of election fraud. We’re seeing officials at the highest levels of government cast doubt on legitimate votes. We’re seeing voter rolls purged of eligible Americans simply because they hadn’t voted recently.
Tech industry leaders have long designed platforms to give everyone a voice in the digital world: platforms that helped Black Lives Matter activists organize the biggest protest movement the country has ever seen, platforms that drove get-out-the-vote efforts during the 2020 election, and platforms that connected students to their classrooms throughout the pandemic.
If leaders in the tech industry believe in all of these progressive promises of technology — and the power of digital connection to democratize our world — then they ought to support those same values in our democracy with bold actions, in addition to words.
That starts with fair access to the ballot box, and there are two important bills before Congress to ensure this promise.
Tech leaders should support the For The People Act (H.R. 1), which would make it easier and safer for every eligible American to cast their vote. The bill would automatically register eligible voters and expand early voting to a minimum of 15 days nationwide, ensuring every American has time to access the ballot box. They should also support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R. 4), which would restore the full protections of the original 1965 Voting Rights Act by holding states that pass discriminatory voting laws accountable.
As innovators, entrepreneurs, and citizens, tech leaders should support both these bills. That’s why our organization, a new progressive tech industry coalition called the Chamber of Progress, endorsed both H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 as our first action. The tech industry has to stand up for what’s good for the country.
Tech’s products drive access and opportunity. It’s time to make that same value a priority in our democracy. The stakes are too high for the tech industry to stay on the sidelines.
The Chamber of Progress (progresschamber.org) is a new center-left tech industry policy coalition promoting technology’s progressive future. We work to ensure that all Americans benefit from technological leaps, and that the tech industry operates responsibly and fairly.
Our corporate partners do not have a vote, veto, or total agreement with our positions, and we remain true to our stated principles even when our partners disagree.