UPDATES: Voter suppression and corporate cash in Georgia

Yesterday, Popular Information published an in-depth investigation on the corporate cash behind the Georgia legislators pushing voter suppression legislation. The report revealed that major corporations, including Coca-Cola, UPS, Delta, and AT&T, had backed the sponsors of two bills that would significantly restrict voting in Georgia. 

A few hours later, a coalition of civil rights groups in Georgia announced a new advocacy campaign based on this research. The coalition, which includes the Georgia NAACP, The New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, and Stand Up Georgia, is demanding that corporations headquartered in the state publicly oppose these bills and divest from politicians who are sponsoring them. The group will place ads in newspapers across the state that specifically target Delta, Coca-Cola, Southern Company, UPS, and Aflac.

The ads also target the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Since 2018, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce donated $44,900 to 23 sponsors of the two main voter suppression bills. 

The New Georgia Project, a member of the coalition, also released a statement about the imperative of corporate action:

Simply put, being a good ally means showing up for marginalized communities when they are under attack. Despite organizing Black History Month campaigns and using Black Lives Matter slogans, many corporations in Georgia support lawmakers working to disenfranchise Black voters, while others remain mum on the issue entirely. This is completely unacceptable...

Silence is not an option -- it is time for corporations to stand with the voters who make up the new Georgia. We call on businesses large and small across Georgia to publicly oppose these anti-voting bills that pose a direct threat to voters of color and immediately halt all donations to elected officials who support this harmful legislation. Our futures depend on it.

The campaign to pressure corporations to speak out against the Georgia bills was covered in the Los Angeles Times. Early Thursday morning, Popular Information's report was picked up by Georgia's largest paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). 

The AJC elicited responses from several additional corporations, including most of the companies targeted by the civil rights coalition. The paper noted that, at present, "corporate titans aren’t standing in fierce opposition to the restrictive voting proposals" but "not staying silent either." Delta provided a representative response:

Delta is more than 75,000 strong - and our shared values call on us to make our voices heard and be engaged members of our communities, of which voting is a vital part of that responsibility. Ensuring an election system that promotes broad voter participation, equal access to the polls, and fair, secure elections processes are critical to voter confidence and creates an environment that ensures everyone’s vote is counted.

Notably, Delta declined to take a position on either of the bills advancing in the Georgia legislature — a middle ground that may not be sustainable. The AJC published similar statements from Aflac, Home Depot, UPS, and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. 

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Governor wild card

The Georgia legislature is controlled by Republicans. And the Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, is a Republican. But that doesn't mean that Kemp will sign anything that reaches his desk. 

In an interview with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt, Kemp said that he was "supportive of putting the photo ID requirement on absentee ballots by mail and other things, making sure that there’s a fair process to observe" but demurred on other provisions of the House and Senate bill. 

Kemp said that he would not sign anything that reached his desk. He supports "securing the vote" but his support for any bill would depend on "what’s in it." In a separate interview, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said, "adding photo ID [requirement for absentee ballots] is one of the few things that leaders in the House, Senate and governor's office have agreed on."

All-Star voting

This weekend, the NBA All-Star Game will take place in Atlanta, Georgia. The NBA, in partnership with More Than A Vote, a voting rights organization founded by LeBron James, plans to use the event to fight voter suppression.

More Than A Vote, the group launched by James, said Tuesday that it was partnering with the NBA, the NBA Players Association and the state chapter of the NAACP to draw attention to attempts in Georgia and other battleground states to roll back voting rights.

The groups intend to use the attention surrounding the All-Star Game, which will be played Sunday in Atlanta, to amplify concerns about legislative proposals that would make it harder for Black people to vote in future elections...

“The attacks on voting rights in Georgia are egregious, but they’re just one example of what is a nationwide effort to strip Black voters of our power,” said Addisu Demissie, the executive director of More Than A Vote.

“Given that we’ll have a national audience tuning in to watch the All Star Game this weekend in Atlanta, we have a unique opportunity to work together with our partners to shine a spotlight on these voter suppression efforts that target the league’s most loyal fan base and provide fans with the tools they need to fight back.”

One of the All-Star Game's top sponsors, AT&T, is a top donor to the sponsors of Georgia's voter suppression bills. The company has donated almost $100,000 to sponsors of the bills since 2018.

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