Corporations Wanted ‘Fair’ Voting Laws In GA. After Restrictions Became Law, They Got Pretty Quiet.

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 03: Demonstrators stand outside of the Georgia Capitol building, to oppose the HB 531 bill on March 3, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.HB 531 will add controversial voting restrictions to the state's upc... ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 03: Demonstrators stand outside of the Georgia Capitol building, to oppose the HB 531 bill on March 3, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.HB 531 will add controversial voting restrictions to the state's upcoming elections including restricting ballot drop boxes, requiring an ID requirement for absentee voting and limiting weekend early voting days. The Georgia House passed the bill and will send it to the Senate. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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March 29, 2021 2:49 p.m.

After an initial wave of lukewarm PR-speak about new, restrictive voting measures in Georgia, major companies with a foothold in the state now seem all too eager to avoid political controversy.

Georgia’s corporate giants have dutifully released statements about the new law — which adds restrictions to voting by mail, state and local elections boards and, yes, giving food and water to people waiting in line to vote.

But none has gone as far as even the Major League Baseball player’s union, which on Friday signaled openness to having discussions with the MLB about relocating its All Star Game, which is scheduled to take place at Truist Park in Atlanta on July 13.

Atlanta-based Coca Cola, for example, said before the bill’s passage that “voting is a foundational right in America, and we will continue to work to advance voting rights and access in Georgia and across the country.”

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After the bill passed last week, the company said only that it had been involved in the legislative session and had expressed concerns through the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

“We, along with our business coalition partners, sought improvements that would enhance accessibility, maximize voter participation, maintain election integrity and serve all Georgians,” the company said. “We will continue to identify opportunities for engagement and strive for improvements aimed at promoting and protecting the right to vote in our home state and elsewhere.” 

Other Georgia corporations under the microscope aren’t rushing to condemn the bill. And companies that have spoken out have claimed their lobbying efforts prevented the legislation from being even worse. For example, Republicans initially expressed support for eliminating no-excuse absentee voting and automatic voter registration, two measures that ultimately didn’t make it into the law. 

The CEO of Delta, which has been bombarded with criticism, said in a statement on Friday that “Over the past several weeks, Delta engaged extensively with state elected officials in both parties to express our strong view that Georgia must have a fair and secure election process, with broad voter participation and equal access to the polls.” 

“The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process,” the statement added, pointing to language about weekend voting and poll workers being allowed to work across state lines, among other things. 

“Nonetheless, we understand concerns remain over other provisions in the legislation, and there continues to be work ahead in this important effort,” Bastian said. 

The insurance company Aflac, headquartered in Columbus, said in a statement released prior to the voting law’s passage that it “will remain actively involved in the process to influence positive results that are aligned with Aflac’s long history of supporting fairness and justice.” 

“Aflac will not support legislation that fails to accomplish these goals,” the statement added.

The company, like many of its peers, still hasn’t said whether it actually supported the finished product that Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law Thursday.

“We remain committed to our previously stated principles that voting should be easy, accessible, secure and transparent,” a company spokesperson told TPM in a statement on Monday. “We have been engaged in the process and will continue to be actively involved to ensure that every eligible Georgian can exercise their right to vote, which is the cornerstone of our democracy.”

For voting rights advocates, the corporate response simply isn’t enough. 

On Thursday, shortly before the bill was passed by the legislature and signed into law, Bishop Reginald Jackson of Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church recalled Coca Cola CEO James Quincey’s past support for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“Now, when they try to pass this racist legislation, we can’t get him to say anything,” Jackson said in a speech. “And our position is, if you can’t stand with us now, you don’t need our money, you don’t need our support.” 

Jackson said the same message applied to other major corporations in Georgia, including Delta Airlines and Home Depot: “We’re not going to give our money to folks who can’t stand with us.” 

And on Monday, Stacey Abrams’ group, Fair Fight, said corporations “stood by” as state Republicans pushed the bill forward. 

This post has been updated.

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