Shortly after a group of Black business executives called on corporate America to do more in pushing back against restrictive voting bills making their way through state legislatures, a handful of Georgia’s highest-profile companies took stronger public stands against the state’s recently passed voting law. The state is home to a host of America’s biggest companies—including Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Home Depot, and Aflac—all of which are facing criticism for not being more vocal in opposition to the Georgia voting bill, which was signed into law last week after weeks of winding its way through the state Legislature. On Wednesday, two of the state’s biggest companies, Delta and Coca-Cola, issued more forceful denunciations of the new law.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian addressed the issue in a memo to employees. “Last week, the Georgia legislature passed a sweeping voting reform act that could make it harder for many Georgians, particularly those in our Black and Brown communities, to exercise their right to vote,” Bastian’s memo said. “The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.”
Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey told CNBC: “Let me be crystal clear and unequivocal. This legislation is unacceptable. It is a step backward and it does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity.” Quincey added the new law “needs to be remedied.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp pushed back against the criticism of the new law that tightens restrictions on early and absentee voting rules from the 2020 election, makes it easier to challenge the validity of individual votes, and gives the state Legislature more power over the process.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that “Kemp and other GOP leaders say they were caught off guard by the opposition” and that the Republican-controlled House “retaliated by narrowly voting to end a lucrative tax break on jet fuel during the final, frenzied day of the legislative session.” “They like our public policy when we’re doing things that benefit them,” Republican House Speaker David Ralston said of the vote. “You don’t feed a dog that bites your hand. You got to keep that in mind sometimes.” I’m not sure that vote and quote came out quite like Ralston and Republicans thought it would. That sounds an awful lot like extortion.
It’s unclear what next steps will or should be taken, but momentum does appear to be gathering to exert pressure on the state of Georgia—and others—to think again before trying to pass measures to restrict the vote. Corporate pressure has been successful in the recent past, particularly on noxious anti-LGBTQ bills passed in state legislatures, and pressure is already getting ramped up on Georgia-based companies, including the sports teams. President Joe Biden, in an interview Wednesday on ESPN, expressed support for moving this year’s MLB All-Star Game out of the state of Georgia over the new law.