Top election officials call on corporations to stand against legislation suppressing voting rights
Georgia voting rights advocates are looking to state corporate interests to pressure legislators from turning back the clock on voting rights gains earned by Black Americans during the 1960s. Courtesy Social Welfare History Project of Virginia
By KAYLA GOGGIN, Contributing Writer
ATLANTA (CN) — Georgia voting rights advocates outlined their strategy to fight the state’s overhaul of its election laws April 5, calling on corporations to come out against legislation that they believe threatens access to the ballot box.
The passage of Senate Bill 202, an expansive measure signed into law last month which places new restrictions on voting, has led activists to demand that corporations use their political clout to support voting rights in Georgia and in other states attempting to push through similar laws.
The law expands in-person early voting in most elections but places new limits on ballot drop boxes, adds ID requirements for absentee ballots, restricts absentee ballot application mailings, and shortens the deadline to request absentee ballots.
The new law also allows for unlimited challenges to voter eligibility and bans people from passing out food and water to voters waiting in line.
Fair Fight Action CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo said corporations need to put their money behind voting rights groups instead of “conspiracy theorists and Republicans who are forwarding the voter fraud lie.”
After initially offering only vague statements about voting rights as Georgia’s Legislature fast-tracked the new omnibus bill to Republican Governor Brian Kemp’s desk, the CEOs of Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines called the new law “unacceptable”.
Their rebuke was followed up by Major League Baseball’s decision Friday to move the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta.
“We have been clear that corporate actors need to speak up against these bills,” Groh-Wargo said. “We’re really grateful that Delta and Coke got in the game – though they got in late – but that coming and bringing their voice to the fight is having an impact in Arizona and Michigan.”
Lawmakers in Arizona, Florida, and Texas are currently considering proposals for similar controversial voting changes including restrictions on ballot drop boxes and additional ID requirements.
“We’re not calling for boycotts. What we’re calling for is for our corporate community to stand with the people and demand that democracy be preserved because the reality is this: whenever there are partisan ideals that take precedent over the franchise of the voting process is when democracy begins to fail,” Georgia NAACP President James Woodall said.
Woodall called the new law “an assault against democracy itself.”
Republicans have hit back by insisting that the law is being misrepresented.
GOP Governor Brian Kemp said Saturday that MLB “caved to the fears and lies of liberal activists.”
During a press conference that day, Georgia Atty. General Chris Carr said that “anybody who actually reads this bill” would see that it “strengthens, expands access, and improves transparency in Georgia’s elections.”
Carr called the comparisons evoking Jim Crow “preposterous, irresponsible, and fundamentally wrong.”
There are currently four pending lawsuits contesting the law filed by the NAACP, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the New Georgia Project, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, and other organizations.
The lawsuits all argue the same essential point: that the law will make it harder for minority voters, especially Black voters, to cast their ballots.
“For some Georgians, this inconvenience may be manageable. But for voters of color and other historically disenfranchised communities — who already suffer through disproportionately longer lines than white voters — it could be dramatic,” a 91-page lawsuit filed last week by the African Methodist Episcopal Church states. “This burden is not an accident. Nor is it legal.”
Republican defendants in the lawsuits, including Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, have remained steadfast in their arguments that the new law will boost voter confidence that they allege suffered after former President Donald Trump falsely claimed he won the 2020 election.
Election officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence of widespread fraud in Georgia’s elections. Three separate ballot counts verified the results of the election.