- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2020

Ride-sharing company Lyft’s new turn-out-the vote effort in cities in five battleground states has sparked outrage from conservatives who think it is a ploy to help Democrats win in November. 

Lyft has formed a partnership with More Than A Vote, an advocacy group led by Black athletes including basketball player LeBron James, to provide free and discounted rides to polling locations in major cities in five key battlegrounds: Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

Tea Party Patriots’ Jenny Beth Martin said Thursday that her legal team is reviewing its options to challenge Lyft’s actions as a potentially “illegal corporate contribution.”  

Lyft, a publicly traded company, says its goal is to assist voters who need transportation, but conservatives view the program as a get-out-the-vote push for Democrats in crucial states that could carry Joseph R. Biden into the White House and hand control of the Senate over to liberals.

“They are choosing sides. If they were NOT choosing sides, they would be offering discounts on ANY ride to the polls on Election Day ANYWHERE in the country,” Ms. Martin said in a statement. “By announcing that they want to offer discounts in a) urban areas (where Democrats dominate) and b) battleground states (where the contest will be closest), they are making clear that they have decided to help the Biden-Harris ticket.”



Lyft did not respond to request for comment on the threat of litigation but said it will offer a discount ride code, “2020VOTE,” to riders across the country. The discount ride code will give riders 50% off one ride up to $10 at any polling location or ballot dropbox, and will be available for riders who choose to use Lyft’s network of bikes and scooters in select cities as well.

“In addition to our national ride code, our work with More Than A Vote gives ride access to More Than A Vote arena polling locations in Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Orlando (like you mentioned),” Darcy Yee, Lyft spokesperson, said in an email. “We also have nearly 20 nonprofit partners who support underserved communities and distribute access to free rides to those who need it most.”

Lyft did not answer a question about whether it would provide comparable ride-sharing transportation to rural voters as it plans to do for urban voters in the five cities targeted by More Than A Vote.

More Than A Vote is a new advocacy group formed in 2020 by Black athletes aimed at channeling protesters’ angst into votes. The group published an open letter saying Black voters in Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, Miami, Milwaukee and Philadelphia would be targeted with voter suppression efforts for the 2020 election and the group was working to combat that by converting “as many arenas and sports facilities as possible into voting precincts.”

Mr. James, a Los Angeles Laker and leader of the movement, has avoided explicitly clashing with President Trump directly while also encouraging voters to choose new leaders to run the country.

“I hope everyone, no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter their sides, see what leadership that we have at the top of our country and understand that November is right around the corner, and it’s a big moment for us as Americans,” Mr. James told reporters in August. “If we continue to talk about what we want better, we want change, we have an opportunity to do that.”

Whether Lyft’s partnership will actually help accomplish Mr. James’ goal of changing the country’s leadership remains to be seen.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who formerly ran for Congress in Florida, said Thursday he thought Democrats may undermine Lyft’s voter-turnout efforts by their vocal push for mail-in ballots that have created fear about in-person voting.

“Normally, I would be extremely concerned about this because it’s geared toward almost exclusively turning out Democratic votes. That said, Democrats have turned away the vast majority of their voters from in-person voting,” Mr. O’Connell said. “They’ve scared [voters], but at the same time, it is a weapon in their arsenal. The only question is whether they choose to promote it.”

Lyft is a publicly traded company accountable to stockholders with the ability to take political stands. Several alternatives to Lyft exist, including Uber, which has its own get-out-the-vote push underway now. Uber is developing new tools in its app to help people register to vote and request mail-in ballots, and it has partnered with a nonprofit group Pizza to the Polls pledging to deliver pizza to those waiting in long lines to vote on Election Day.

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