Major League Baseball, Delta, and Coke are calling out Georgia for its new voting reforms, but some of these corporations were involved in crafting the legislation. WABE’s Emma Hurt explains.
Publish Date: Apr 07, 2021
10 days ago, Georgia passed a nearly 100 page overhaul of its election laws that immediately caused an uproar Democrats, Delta, Coca Cola and now even Major League Baseball. But it turns out some of these corporations were involved in crafting the legislation on the Saturday we're going to try and figure out what's going on in Georgia and why it matters, even if you're not in Georgia. And it matters because of Georgia's 2020 election season. Emma Hurt is a politics reporter at W. A B E in Atlanta. It was a really competitive state, as many people might remember just about a 12,000 vote margin in November for Biden. He flipped the state blue after decades of Republican control. And then there were these Democratic big upset wins in our Senate run offs right afterwards. And then you layer on that former President Trump's false claims of voter fraud that really began to coalesce and focus in on Georgia, where there were a lot of conspiracy theories and false allegations swirling around about the elections. And so this law also seems to appear that it's playing into that that big lie of voter fraud and so it really doesn't look great for Republicans, even though it's 100 page law that does a lot of things, some would argue restrict voting and others actually expanded. Well, you said, it's almost 100 pages. Let's talk about what exactly is in the law. Can you break it down for us? I'm not gonna be able to cover all of it, but I'll do. I'll do my best to cover the headlines. Headlines that have really grabbed attention are that it adds a new I D requirement for absentee ballots, replaces the state signature match policy and tries to match the I D requirement for an absentee ballot with that of voting in person, where you have to show an I d right, it cuts the window in which you can request an absentee ballot in Georgia in half, from 180 days to 78. But it also moves the deadline for which that application can come in up, which is something that counties had requested. It bands the discretionary use of mobile polling places, but it expands requirements for early voting hours and weekend early voting. It forces counties who see precincts with long lines longer than an hour to respond in the next election cycle. So they have to add machines or split the precincts up with absentee ballot drop boxes. It codifies them into law, so all counties have to have one. And so that means that some counties which didn't have one will now have one. However, it also limits the total that a county can have based on population, which will limit the amount of job boxes that are in counties in metro Atlanta, for example, compared to this last election, it also limits where they can go and for how long they can be open, which people see as a restriction. I'm going to keep going. If you're cool with me, keep rambling. I got a couple other points. You keep going. Sure, okay, it bans someone from handing out food or drink to a voter in line, and this is something that's gotten a lot of attention. So it's banning being nice to voters. So that's what some people are arguing about it. The Republican perspective on it is that you had these hardest in groups that might not have been campaigning for a candidate or, you know, not violating the election earing law, You know which most. I think all states have banning anyone from campaigning at a polling place. But it's like, Oh, this is a group founded by a Democrat. We're not advertising the Democrat, but here's some free water. And so Republicans saw that as too much of a gray area, and they're saying you can still set up your table 150 ft away, and it's not something that many other states have. And then the last big thing that's gotten a lot of tension is that it gives the state election board, which is it's controlled by whoever controls the state capital, which right now is Republicans. It gives them new powers to appoint a superintendent to take over a county elections department if that department is deemed to be problematic after a couple of years and then on top of that with the state election board, it replaces our statewide elected secretary of state with someone who is elected by the General Assembly as chairman on that board. So that's seen as a power grab by the state capital over elections administrations, which in Georgia is largely managed by the county's individually. Okay, so you're right. That was a very long list. At least one thing was about expanding the hours in which people can vote. That being said, President Biden has called this Jim Crow in the 21st century. But is it fair to say that this isn't all necessarily voter suppression? But maybe some of it is? Yeah. And you know, this characterization of Jim Crow two point Oh, is indicative of something else that you really can't separate this law from. You can't separate it from the 2020 Election, and you also can't separate it from Georgia and other states in the South. Really horrible histories with voting access, disenfranchising people of color. And you know all of these horrible Jim Crow era laws that many lead and died to fight against. But the Republicans who wrote this law have really bridled at that characterization. They don't see it as relevant at all to those who call it Jim Crow to or Jim Crow in a suit and tie. You say that is just sad that someone would stoop to that type of name calling. We want everybody to have a chance to vote is there backlash. The second thing is signed. There is, and actually I don't know if people remember. But that night a Georgia state representative was arrested in the capital because she was knocking on the governor's door trying to witness the signing ceremony because it was signed within an hour of it. Being past our governor is signing a bill that affects all Georgians, and you're going to arrest an elected representative. There were lawsuits filed immediately. Tonight, a third federal lawsuit has been filed challenging Georgia's new voting law, which was signed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp last week. The lawsuit filed by civil rights groups, claims that the new law restricts the rights of voters, including voters of color and those in religious communities. And then there was also pressure on Georgia's business community, because when all else fails, you know, Georgia prides itself as being a business friendly state, and so these companies do have a lot of influence in Georgia. And so that's where the story has gone now, yeah, tell me a bit more about the corporate backlash. Word on the curb is that these businesses had been involved. Some of Georgia's major businesses like Delta and Coca Cola in the Chamber of Commerce as the bill was being written. Wait, why? Why did why would Delta or Coca Cola be involved in this process at all? Because Delta and Coca Cola have an interest in Georgia's reputation. Do we know how Delta and Coke and anyone else weighed in in the process of writing this law? We know that Governor Kemp has said. But we were also having, I mean, talking to the business community a lot, probably, you know, at least once a day on you know what the Senate was doing, what the house was doing, getting their feedback. And that's just part of the legislative process. I think it was very and, you know, the day after the bill was passed to release this statement, that was sort of vaguely, you know, we're in favour of voting access, and it didn't say anything about the law. Specifically, I think some of the Republicans in the middle who wrote this believe that it had been a compromise and the business had been at the table just like everyone else that had their input. But the pressure continued to mount, and I think there were. There were behind the scenes meetings with corporate leaders from voting rights activists, leaders in the black community, saying, This is not okay, You you need to do more than just kind of a lukewarm statement about it. Even if you tried to lobby to make it better, that's not good enough at this point. And so almost a week after the law was passed, all of a sudden, we've got these statements from businesses all over the place. We have a group of African American business leaders around the country, including the CEO of Merck, former CEO of American Express, decrying, You know, broadly this push of voter security measures around the country led by Republicans. But then we have these very, um these very forceful statements from the hometown guys from Delta and Coca Cola, which really caught Republicans by surprise because remember, they said they had been at the table the whole time. They never had any big complaints, and Delta CEO came out and called the law unacceptable and said it was based on a lie. The right to vote is sacrosanct, and we can't do anything to send a message to people that we're going to make it more restrictive and harder to have their voice heard. Coca Cola CEO called it unacceptable as well. So now we're focused on advocating trying to get a check.