Pressure on corporations mount over multiplying voter suppression laws
Some have taken a stance against the measures appearing in states while others have remained silent.
On Thursday, March 25, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed SB 202, a 98-page omnibus bill known as the “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” passing into law a series of controversial changes to the state’s voting procedures.
Under the new legislation, people who choose to send in mail-in absentee ballots will have to do so 11 weeks (77 days) before the election, as opposed to the 180 days they previously were given.
Requesting and returning ballots will also require new ID laws, such as a driver’s license, a state ID number or a copy of an acceptable voter ID.
Another new rule that affects both in-person early voting and election day voting prohibits anyone except poll workers from handing out water to voters in line, and outlaws passing out food and water to voters within 150 feet of a building that serves as a poll.
These new regulations, among other restrictive changes will directly impact some of Georgia’s most vulnerable populations, like Black and Brown citizens, the elderly, disabled and low-income families.
Groups such as Black Voters Matter, Georgia NAACP, and the New Georgia Project Action Fund have been pushing back against these efforts to restrict voting access since early March, calling on corporations such as Aflac and Delta Air Lines to take a stand against these efforts.
Though the law has passed, liberal activists are continuing to put pressure on corporate America to denounce these Republican efforts to tighten state voting laws.
Pressure has been mounting on leading companies in Texas, Arizona and other states, particularly after Major League Baseball’s decision on Friday, April 2 to move its 2021 All-Star game out of Atlanta.
MLB’s move came a week after Georgia Republicans enacted an overhaul of the state’s election law, despite criticism that it is an attempt to suppress Democratic votes.
Somewhat reluctantly, other companies have spoken out against the GOP voter suppression efforts. Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, two of Georgia’s best-known brands, called the new law “unacceptable,” although they had a hand in writing it.
This only aggravated Republicans, including Gov. Brian Kemp and several U.S. senators, who accused the companies of succumbing to “unwarranted attacks” from the left.
Corporate America is now compelled to enter a space that it typically tries to avoid — the center of a partisan political fight. But with threats of boycotts and bad publicity, business leaders are making an entrance into an issue not directly related to their bottom lines, at the risk of alienating Republican allies.
“We want to hold corporations accountable for how they show up when voting rights are under attack,” said Marc Banks, an NAACP spokesman. “Corporations have a part to play, because when they do show up and speak, people listen.”
In Texas, groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), League of Women Voters and the NAACP are also urging corporations to speak out against the slate of Republican-backed voting proposals.
“Democracy is good for business,” the campaign says.
LULAC, the nation’s longest-standing and largest Latino civil rights organization, has been in the fight against GOP-backed voter restriction since Tuesday, March 9, when it filed a lawsuit challenging a massive attack on Latino voting rights in Iowa.
Unlike their Georgia counterparts, American Airlines and Dell Technologies wasted no time in making their voice heard. The Texas proposal has yet to pass, but American Airlines already released a statement, making their stance clear.
“We are strongly opposed to this bill and others like it,” American said in a statement.
Arizona, which President Biden was able to flip from Trump in November, hasn’t seen any high-profile corporate players join in yet.
But more than 30 groups sent a joint letter to CVS Health, Farmers’ Insurance and Allstate Insurance, among others, urging them to publicly oppose the voting restrictions.
Executive director of Progressive Arizona, Emily Kirkland, who signed the letter, reported that there has been no response yet from any of the companies.
Other groups want corporations to turn their focus on Washington, where Democrats in Congress are pushing for measures that would make it easier for Americans to vote, regardless of state laws.
Among the changes being proposed, Democrats would enact automatic voter registration on a national level to standardize access to both early and mail-in voting.
Democrats also intend to restore portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that requires the federal government to approve all election procedures in states and localities with a history of discrimination. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down those provisions, which applied in states like Arizona and Georgia.
Coca-Cola said in a statement that it has been working with the Metro Atlanta Chamber to “advocate for positive change in voting legislation.”
“We, along with our business coalition partners, sought improvements that would enhance accessibility, maximize voter participation, maintain election integrity and serve all Georgians,” the statement said.
Delta also made a statement, asserting that voters have a right to proper access, but also stressed the importance of secure elections.
CEO Ed Bastian said that the company is committed to listening to its communities as well as working with both parties on legislation.
"Delta believes that full and equal access to voting is a fundamental right for all citizens," Bastian said.
New Georgia Project Action Fund CEO Nsé Ufot, said that the companies “can’t have it both ways,” taking aim at the subtle praise directed at the bill.
“SB 202 is not commendable in the least. It represents everything Republican lawmakers are fighting for: a rollback of voting rights for Black and Brown communities, new voters and young people in Georgia. Delta, Coca-Cola, and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s praise of the bill is a betrayal,” Ufot stated.
“It is completely unacceptable to praise the bills that take away our most fundamental American right to vote and simultaneously profit off of our dollars,” Ufot continued.
Ufot then offered a suggestion to companies that want to show support in a clear, meaningful and tangible way.
“Georgia businesses: if you really care, you will change your public statements. You will publicly support the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For The People Act. You will also tell your Republican friends to pass these acts immediately. Make it clear that you care about your customers, employees and community members," she said.