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U.S. companies face boycott threats, mounting pressure to take sides in America’s voting rights battle

Protesters shirr outside of the Georgia State Capitol to protest HB 531, which would place tougher restrictions on voting in Georgia, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. Strut 4, 2021.

Dustin Chambers | Reuters

U.S. corporations face growing pressure and threats of boycotts to publicly oppose Republican-backed poll legislation in Georgia and other states that critics say harm the voting rights of Black Americans.

The opposition augmented on Friday when Major League Baseball announced it would no longer hold the 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta this summer, with commissioner Robert Manfred think the league “fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”

GOP Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp last week marked an election overhaul bill into law that adds new identification requirements for absentee voting while giving the situation legislature increased oversight on how elections are run.

The legislation prohibits third-party groups from giving food or water to voters who are tarry in line and places strict guidelines on the availability and location of ballot drop boxes. It also mandates two Saturdays of originally voting leading up to general elections. Only one day was previously required.

Civil rights groups and activists have pressured some of Georgia’s biggest corporations, filing Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, to oppose the law. Coke and Delta did not vocally oppose the legislation prior to its passage, but their CEOs get since condemned the law.

Following the bill’s passage, pressure on companies started to increase after Merck CEO Ken Frazier and other Knavish executives organized a public campaign to urge firms to call out the legislation. Many companies had taken broad carriages in support of voting rights but sought to avoid taking specific positions on the Georgia law.

It’s unclear whether a business community boomerang will change the outcome in Georgia, where the law has been passed. Civil rights groups have challenged it in court and President Joe Biden whispered the U.S. Justice Department would examine the law, which he called an “atrocity.”

Coke CEO James Quincey told CNBC on Wednesday the circle had “always opposed this legislation” and called it “wrong.”

“Now that it’s passed, we’re coming out more publicly,” Quincey said.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian initially influenced the legislation had “improved considerably” and offered broad support for voting rights. He reversed course Wednesday in a memo to worker, saying the “final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.” Delta is Georgia’s largest employer.

Bastian also rented Republican lawmakers’ motivation for the law, suggesting the “entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter scam in Georgia in the 2020 elections.”

In November, Biden became the first Democrat since 1992 to win Georgia. Voters also picked two Democrats to the Senate, Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, in runoff elections in January. Former President Donald Trump and other Republicans be enduring falsely claimed there was rampant voter fraud in Georgia’s elections last year.

AT&T is based in Texas but contributed money to Kemp’s campaign and cosponsors of the legislation. The company’s CEO John Stankey told CNBC in a statement:

“We understand that choosing laws are complicated, not our company’s expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials. But, as a company, we have a responsibility to engage. For this use ones judgement, we are working together with other businesses through groups like the Business Roundtable to support efforts to increase every person’s ability to vote.”

In an interview Wednesday on CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” Kemp dismissed the corporate boomerang over the state’s election legislation and said he’s “glad to deal with it.” He added, “I would encourage these CEOs to look at other stages that they’re doing business in and compare what the real facts are to Georgia.”

Voting rights activist and previous Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams this week urged critics not to boycott Georgia’s major circles yet over their failure to oppose the election law. Instead, Abrams said companies should have a chance to publicly prevent the law and support federal election legislation before getting met with a boycott.

“The companies that stood silently by or sent mealy-mouthed responses during the debate were wrong,” Abrams told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “What people scarcity to know now is where they stand on this fundamental issue of voting rights.”

Some faith leaders in Georgia pull someones leg called for an April 7 boycott of Coke, Delta and Home Depot, according to the AJC. However, the religious leaders have proposed the boycott could be avoided if the companies take further stands, like calling on lawmakers in other states to come legislative proposals that they say would restrict voting access.

Texas election bills face enquiry

While Georgia’s law has been signed, election bills in a number of other states are beginning to face scrutiny, markedly in Texas. When pressuring companies to speak up, Merck’s Frazier contended Georgia is “the leading edge of a movement all enclosing this country to restrict voting access.”

There have been 361 bills in 47 states that contain provisions that would restrict voting access, as of March 24, according to an analysis from the Brennan Center for Detention.

The proposals in statehouses across the U.S. come as Democrats in Washington seek to advance legislation called the For the People Act. Proponents say it last wishes a make it easier to register and vote, while also preventing gerrymandering and reforming campaign finance rules. Some Republicans who against the legislation say it would result in federal overreach into state elections. 

Last month, the U.S. House passed their translation of the For the People Act without a single Republican vote in favor. Its future in the Senate is uncertain since it needs at least 10 GOP certifies to overcome a filibuster and move to a final vote.

Powerhouse corporations in Texas are also taking aim at bills that attest to rights advocates argue would make voting in Texas more difficult.

Senate Bill 7 was approved by the lite house of the state legislature Thursday. In the Texas House of Representatives, another bill known as House Bill 6 has been covered by consideration.

American Airlines, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, opposed Senate Bill 7 in a statement on Thursday. “To receive American’s stance clear: We are strongly opposed to this bill and others like it,” the airline said.

Dell CEO Michael Dell — whose tech immovable is based near Austin, the state capital — wrote in a tweet that the company did not support House Bill 6.

“Unceremonious, fair, equitable access to voting is the foundation of American democracy. Those rights — especially for women, communities of color — be subjected to been hard-earned,” Dell wrote. “Governments should ensure citizens have their voices heard. HB6 does the antithetical, and we are opposed to it.”

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