Coke, Delta Defend Failure to Stop Georgia Election Curbs

Corporations that had declined to publicly oppose a sweeping Georgia election law claimed some responsibility for pushing to remove some of the most egregious elements from the measure, which critics have said will make it more difficult for people to vote.

With pressure mounting in the state, groups were threatening consumer boycotts of Coca-Cola Co., Delta Air Lines Inc. and other companies that have supported the bill’s sponsors, and at least one group was calling for the PGA of America to cancel its storied Masters tournament, which starts in Augusta in less than three weeks.

Major League Baseball players, meanwhile, are ready to discuss moving the All-Star Game that’s scheduled to be played in Atlanta this July, their unions’ executive director told the Boston Globe. General Motors Co. and Coca-Cola have previously supported lawmakers who sponsored the Georgia bills and passed up the opportunity Friday to criticize them, saying only that they haven’t resumed political giving since pausing it in the aftermath of the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Home Depot Inc. said it continually assesses its financial backing of political candidates, without saying whether it would take the voting bill into consideration. The company’s political action committee “supports candidates on both sides of the aisle who champion pro-business, pro-retail positions that create jobs and economic growth,” spokeswoman Sara Gorman said.

“We believe that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure and support broad voter participation,” Gorman said in a statement. “We’ll continue to work to ensure our associates, both in Georgia and across the country, have the information and resources to vote.”

Fair Election

Atlanta-based Coke issued a statement saying that while the bill was being debated, the company was “active with the Metro Atlanta Chamber in expressing our concerns and advocating for positive change in voting legislation. We, along with our business coalition partners, sought improvements that would enhance accessibility, maximize voter participation, maintain election integrity and serve all Georgians.”

Delta, also based in Atlanta, said in a statement it had engaged Georgia’s elected officials in both parties on the need to have a fair and secure election process, along with equal access to the polls.

“The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process, and expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting and protects a voter’s ability to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason,” it said.

Despite the changes in the proposed legislation, voting rights activists still criticized the corporations for their role in the legislation.

“Georgia companies can’t have it both ways,” Nsé Ufot, chief executive officer of the New Georgia Project Action Fund, said in a statement. “It is completely unacceptable to praise the bills that take away our most fundamental American right to vote and simultaneously profit off of our dollars. Their low-key betrayal has now become completely blinding.”

More than 260 bills have been introduced in 43 state legislatures since former President Donald Trump’s campaign to overturn what he falsely claimed was a stolen election late last year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. Absentee voting, ballot drop boxes and early voting are among GOP lawmakers’ targets.

Sunday Voting

In Georgia, lawmakers introduced scores of bills to limit voting, including proposals targeting no-excuse absentee voting, early voting and Sunday voting, which is used heavily by black churches.

The bill that Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed is a massive rewrite of Georgia’s election law, imposing new voter identification requirements, allowing state officials to take over local elections boards, limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, shortening the absentee voting window, and making it illegal to approach voters in line to give them food and water. It was a nearly 100-page last minute compromise -- largely with the business community -- that whipped through both chambers of the legislature in just one week. Its speed and size left some opponents arguing on the Senate floor Thursday against provisions that were no longer in it.

The bill no longer requires voters to send in photocopies of their state IDs if voting by mail, for instance. It also does not end no-excuse absentee voting: The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, which represents most major companies headquartered in Georgia, had publicly opposed that proposal specifically.

Kemp tweeted a photo of himself signing the bill inside his office, proclaiming, “I was proud to sign S.B. 202 to ensure elections in Georgia are secure, fair, and accessible. I appreciate the hard work of members of the General Assembly to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

Many U.S. companies loudly championed voter access in 2020 and recoiled at former President Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. Ballots-rights advocates in Georgia had urged the companies to oppose the post-election bills pushed by Republican state lawmakers to curb voting rights.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.