Protesters gather outside the Georgia State Capitol to protest against HB 531, which would impose tighter restrictions on voting in Georgia, in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, March 4, 2021.
Dustin Chambers | Reuters
U.S. businesses face mounting pressure and boycott threats to publicly oppose Republican-backed election legislation in Georgia and other states that critics say undermines black voting rights Americans.
Opposition escalated on Friday when Major League Baseball announced it would no longer be holding the 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta this summer, with Commissioner Robert Manfred saying the league “fundamentally supports the right to vote for all. Americans and opposes ballot restrictions.
Last week, Georgia GOP Governor Brian Kemp signed an Election Redesign Bill that adds new identification requirements for absentee voting while giving the state legislature some control increased on the way elections are organized.
The law prohibits third-party groups from giving food or water to queuing voters and imposes strict guidelines on the availability and location of ballot boxes. It also provides for two early voting Saturdays before the general election. Only one day was previously required.
Civil rights groups and activists have pressured some of Georgia’s biggest companies, including Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, to oppose the law. Coke and Delta did not strongly oppose the legislation before it was passed, but their CEOs have since condemned the law.
Following the passage of the bill, pressure on businesses began to increase after Merck CEO Ken Frazier and other black executives mounted a public campaign to get businesses to call for the legislation. Many companies have taken general positions in favor of the right to vote but have sought to avoid taking specific positions on Georgian law.
It is not known whether a reaction from the business community will change the outcome in Georgia, where the law was passed. Civil rights groups have challenged it in court, and President Joe Biden has said the US Department of Justice will review the law, which he called an “atrocity.”
Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey told CNBC on Wednesday that the company had “always opposed this legislation” and called it “bad.”
“Now that it’s passed, we’re going out more publicly,” Quincey said.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian first said the legislation had “improved dramatically” and offered broad support for voting rights. He reversed course on Wednesday in a note to the employee, saying “the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.” Delta is Georgia’s largest employer.
Bastian also tore apart Republican lawmakers’ motivation for the law, suggesting that “the whole rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 election.”
In November, Biden became the first Democrat since 1992 to win Georgia. Voters also elected two Democrats to the Senate, Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, in the runoff election in January. Former President Donald Trump and other Republicans have falsely claimed there was widespread voter fraud in the Georgia election last year.
AT&T is based in Texas but has donated money to Kemp’s campaign and the legislation’s cosponsors. Company CEO John Stankey told CNBC in a statement:
“We understand that election laws are complicated, not our company’s expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials. But, as a company, we have a responsibility to engage. For this reason, we work with others. companies through groups like Business. Roundtable to support efforts to improve people’s ability to vote. “
In an interview on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” Wednesday, Kemp dismissed corporate reaction to the state’s election law and said he was “happy to deal with it”. He added, “I would encourage these CEOs to look at other states they do business in and compare the real facts in Georgia.”
This week, voting rights activist and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams urged critics not to boycott big Georgian companies for not opposing the election law. Instead, Abrams said businesses should be given the opportunity to publicly oppose the law and support federal election legislation before being boycotted.
“The companies that stood silent or gave wacky answers during the debate were wrong,” Abrams told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “What people want to know now is where they are at on this fundamental question of the right to vote.”
Some religious leaders in Georgia have called for an April 7 boycott of Coca-Cola, Delta and Home Depot, according to AJC. However, religious leaders have suggested the boycott could be avoided if companies take a more stand, such as calling on lawmakers in other states to withdraw legislative proposals they believe would restrict access to the vote.
Texas election bills come under scrutiny
As Georgian law has been signed, election bills in a number of other states are starting to come under scrutiny, particularly in Texas. When pressuring businesses to speak out, Merck’s Frazier argued Georgia was “at the forefront of a nationwide movement to restrict access to the vote.”
According to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, 361 bills in 47 states included provisions that would restrict access to the vote on March 24.
The proposals in states across the United States come as Democrats in Washington seek to push forward legislation called the For the People Act. Supporters say it would make it easier to register and vote, while preventing gerrymandering and reform of campaign finance rules. Some Republicans who oppose the legislation say it would result in federal overtaking of state elections.
Last month, the U.S. government passed its version of the For the People Act without a single Republican vote in favor. His future in the Senate is uncertain, as he needs at least 10 GOP votes to overcome a filibuster and move on to a final vote.
Big Texas corporations are also grappling with bills that voting rights advocates say would make voting in Texas more difficult.
Senate Bill 7 was approved by the upper house of the state legislature on Thursday. In the Texas House of Representatives, another bill called House Bill 6 is under consideration.
American Airlines, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, opposed Senate Bill 7 in a statement Thursday. “To make the US position clear: we are strongly opposed to this bill and others like it,” the airline said.
Dell CEO Michael Dell, whose tech company is based near Austin, the state capital, wrote in a tweet that the company does not support Bill 6.
“Free, fair and equitable access to the vote is the foundation of American democracy. These rights, especially for women, communities of color have been hard won,” Dell wrote. “Governments should ensure that citizens make their voices heard. HB6 is doing the opposite, and we oppose it.”
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