(Reuters) – Constituencies are calling on companies like Coca-Cola Co and Delta Air Lines Inc to oppose efforts by Republican lawmakers in Georgia to impose sweeping new restrictions on access to voting rights in the battlefield state.
The organizations, including Black Voters Matter, the New Georgia Project, and the Georgia NAACP, launched a campaign on social media and local news outlets this week calling on companies to stand up against laws they said that they should curb the turnout of democratically oriented black voters.
Black voters were instrumental in the election of Democratic President Joe Biden in the November election and two Democratic senators in a January runoff in Georgia, a once unthinkable scenario in the traditionally Republican southern state.
“Some of these companies have made beautiful statements for Black Lives Matter,” said Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, a group focused on improving Black Americans’ electoral access. “But here, the moment when it matters most, they were silent.”
Republicans in Georgia and across the country are using former President Donald Trump’s false claims about electoral fraud to support changes in the state level votes they believe are necessary to restore electoral integrity.
Republicans this week called on the US Supreme Court to uphold electoral restrictions in Arizona in a case that could further hamper the 1965 Suffrage Act, which bans racial discrimination in elections.
They also opposed an electoral reform bill passed by the democratically controlled US House of Representatives on Wednesday. The For the People Act, the most comprehensive voting law since the 1965 Act, is facing major difficulties in the Senate. Republicans say it is not doing enough to combat fraud.
In Georgia, arguably one of the biggest battlefields in the 2022 election, with a seat in the U.S. Senate and the governor’s electoral office, Republican lawmakers who back the voting actions claim they are meant to protect elections.
A bill passed Monday by Republican-controlled Georgia House would restrict ballot boxes, tighten postal voting requirements and restrict early Sunday voting, thereby curtailing traditional “Souls to the Polls” voter participation programs in black churches.
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Some constituencies have increased their focus on Georgia-based companies after Popular Information, an online policy newsletter from Judd Legum, a former advisor to Democrat Hillary Clinton, posted the campaign’s financial reports at https://popular.info/p/ georgia has cited the corporations had donated around $ 7.4 million since 2018 to politicians who support the right to vote.
The groups ran several full-page ads in local newspapers calling on Delta, Coca-Cola, Southern Company, Home Depot Inc., United Parcel Service Inc., and Aflac Inc. to stop donations and support federal voting reform.
Albright said the groups would encourage Georgian residents to call the companies and that protests could be organized outside their offices.
In testimony to Reuters, Coca-Cola, UPS, Delta, Home Depot and Aflac said they are committed to the right to vote but did not provide any details about their stance on Georgia bills or future political donations.
Coca-Cola said it cut political donations in January when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. The company added that it supported efforts to “enable a balanced approach to voting outcomes”. Aflac also said it paused all political giving in January.
Delta said it made no individual contributions to Georgia House or Senate candidates in 2020.
UPS and Coca-Cola said they worked with local chambers of commerce on voting issues. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce did not comment on the ongoing talks, referring Reuters to a February 16 statement in which the group said it was “easy to choose, difficult to cheat”.
Southern Company declined to comment.
US businesses in general are becoming more reluctant about the exposure that comes with political giving, said Donald Green, professor of political science at Columbia University.
“This will give them another excuse to withdraw from this type of contribution,” said Green.
The Republican Party of Georgia did not respond to a request for comment on constituencies’ efforts to enlist corporate assistance in combating the bill.
The Georgia proposals were reviewed by More Than A Vote, a voting rights organization founded by LeBron James.
The group, which has supported athlete demonstrations in the past, tweeted that it has partnered with the NBA and Georgia NAACP to take on voter suppression at this weekend’s All-Star game in Atlanta.
(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Aurora Ellis)