Will Bullying Corporations Discourage States From Passing Voter Integrity Bills?

photo of person dropping a vote
Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

If you can’t get the state legislature to do what you want, bully corporations that are critical to the state’s economy into advocating your position.

A group of 72 black executives, including some Fortune 500 business leaders, appear to be using this strategy to either force Georgia to repeal Georgia SB 202, an election integrity law, or to scare other states into not passing similar measures.

In a letter this week, they called the Georgia bill an effort to suppress minority voting and urged corporations to oppose the measure. And they are.

Ed Bastian, president of Delta Air Lines, a Georgia-based company and the state’s largest employer, said Wednesday “the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong.” 

The bill, signed into law by GOP Gov. Brian Kemp last month, requires all voters to provide a driver’s license or a free state ID card number to request and submit an absentee ballot. Every voter already must present some form of photo ID to vote in person.

The bill also makes it a misdemeanor for individuals to give gifts or “food and drink” to voters who are waiting in line to vote. (Poll workers can still provide water.) And it restricts the number and placement of ballot drop-off boxes to insure ballot security.

Poll: Most Blacks Support Voter ID

The issue is anything but clear cut.

For one thing, a recent poll shows that most Americans – including most black Americans – support voter identification.

The poll by Rasmussen Reports, an independent polling company, found that 75% of likely voters believe photo identification should be presented before voting, including 69% of black likely voters. The p0ll was based on a survey of 1,000 adults from March 14-15, with a three percent margin of error.

Moreover, Democratic President Joe Biden stirred up controversy on the Georgia bill with a series of misstatements. Among other things, he falsely stated the bill, which he called “Jim Crow on steroids,” ends voting hours early so working people can’t vote.

Biden’s claims were disputed by Glenn Kessler, a fact checker for the liberal newspaper, The Washington Post, who reported that experts say the “net effect” of the law will “expand the opportunities to vote for most Georgians, not limit them.” Kessler speculated that Biden was looking at an earlier version of the law.

Black Executives

Merk chief executive Ken Frazier and Berkshire Hathaway director Kenneth Chenault are leading the effort to pressure corporations to oppose the Georgia bill, which they characterize as a deliberate effort by Republicans to suppress the minority vote.

“As Black business leaders, we cannot sit silently in the face of this gathering threat to our nation’s democratic values and allow the fundamental right of Americans, to cast their votes for whomever they choose, to be trampled upon yet again,” they wrote.

The letter also was signed by Google Vice President of Global Partnerships Bonita C. Stewart, M&T Bank chairperson Rene F. Jones and former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns.

Meanwhile, Brad S. Karp, chairperson of Paul Weiss, and his partner, Robert Atkins, also co-chair of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, called Thursday for lawyers to “stand up against the renewed, cynical efforts to undermine our Constitution and to fight to protect the voting rights of all Americans.”

In addition to Delta airlines, James Quincey, the CEO of Coca-Cola, condemned the Georgia bill on Wednesday, telling CNN that it is “unacceptable. It is a step backwards.”

In response to the Delta CEO’s criticism of the Georgia bill, the Georgia House of Representatives voted to strip Delta of a tax break on jet fuel.

Gov. Kemp complained Bastian’s statement “stands in stark contrast to our conversations with [Delta], ignores the content of the new law, and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists.”

According to The Guardian, activists have warned that the words of corporate leaders are not enough; they are expected to act on their sentiments. “We’re just getting started!” tweeted Cliff Albright, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter, another of the groups that has been pressuring businesses to take a stand.

There is currently discussion about moving the July 13 All-Star game from Atlanta because of Georgia’s adoption of SB 202. Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark told ESPN that he “would look forward” to discussing the move because he finds it “alarming” that Georgia is “trying to restrict” American votes.

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