In July of 2021, Aspen Skiing Company—along with over 160 other major American corporations—signed a letter to Congress in support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), aptly named after the late, great American civil rights leader and long-time lawmaker. The hope of the letter was to pressure Congress to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and remove barriers to voting, all in the name of building a truly representative 21st century democracy in the United States of America.
Aspen Skiing Company’s support of the VRAA was an easy decision, and one that falls in line with the company’s stated purpose: To inspire journeys within to advance possibilities for all. Other corporations that signed the letter include Airbnb, Apple, Ben & Jerry’s, Burton, Google, Prudential Financial, Starbucks, and Target—proving that regardless of industry, voter’s rights matter to businesses across the board.
“We want to ensure folks across the country can participate in free and fair elections,” said Mike Kaplan, President and CEO of Aspen Skiing Company. “At Aspen Snowmass, we are proud of our history, which is steeped in democracy and freedom. Aspen Snowmass was founded by members of the 10th Mountain Division, a small Army unit whose members used their skills as elite skiers to fight Nazis in the Italian mountains. These soldiers returned from fighting fascism—one of humanity’s greatest struggles for its own soul—and then came to Colorado to make their sport accessible for everyone. Yet now more than 75 years later, we are still fighting for democracy – this time at our own city halls, schools, and libraries as thousands of people are denied the American right to vote.”
In the 2020 election, it became clear to those paying attention that some areas of the country faced barriers when it came to casting a ballot—especially in communities of color. We witness discriminatory voter I.D. laws (like accepting military I.D.s to vote but not a state employee I.D.), lack of access to nearby voting stations, an inability to vote by mail, extremely long wait times, and more.
Aspen Skiing Company sees Colorado’s voting laws as a model of what expanded access looks like, as our state is only one of only five that conducted elections by mail before 2020. Colorado also allows residents to fix rejected ballots so that they are counted—a vital measure, considering that a disproportionate number of the state’s rejected ballots are filled out by voters in communities of color and younger voters.
Voter’s rights champions like Senator Bennet of Colorado are given immense credit for making Colorado a leader in our country’s voting laws, as ours is only one state in a larger fabric that has seen voter suppression at full force. Nearly 400 state bills that would restrict voter access to the polls are currently proposed, which only highlights the need for a transparent, federal process that will make voting safe and accessible to all. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore and strengthen our freedom to vote by preventing discriminatory voting laws from being implemented; and would continue our long tradition of safeguarding this fundamental democratic principle.
As of August 24, 2021, the VRAA passed the House, taking one massive step toward protecting the right to vote for all and restoring the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is considered a cornerstone of the civil rights movement, promising to make democracy a reality for all Americans, including people of color who have historically been marginalized. The VRAA will now go to the Senate, which has reauthorized the Voting Rights Act five times, all by overwhelming bipartisan support.
In a time when it can feel as though the United States of America is divided, uniting to protect democracy feels not just bipartisan, but truly patriotic. “While each of our companies is unique, we are united in the belief that every American deserves a voice in our democracy. It is our government’s role to ensure voting is accessible to all,” read the letter to Congress, and Aspen Skiing Company stands firmly and proudly in its position.