Activists pressure Atlanta-based companies like Coca-Cola and Delta to take action against Georgia voting law

Georgia polling place
A voter walks to the entrance during early voting for the Senate runoff election, at Ron Anderson Recreation Center, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, in Powder Springs, Ga.

  • Georgia just passed a new law that changes voting and elections in the state.
  • Coca-Cola, Delta, and Home Depot all gave statements in support of voting rights.
  • Activists are pressuring the companies to try to force them to do more.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Georgia just passed a law with new voting restrictions, and activists opposing the new measures are not satisfied by the broad statements made by companies based in the state.

The SB 202 bill makes changes to nearly all aspects of voting and elections in the state, Grace Panetta reported for Insider. The most controversial aspects of the new law include a ban on volunteers giving water and snacks to voters waiting in line, more stringent voter ID laws for absentee ballots, and “ballot selfies” are banned.

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Civil rights groups and Democratic elected officials, including President Joe Biden, have condemned the law as voter suppression. Civil rights groups including the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, and the Georgia NAACP have filed federal lawsuits against the law as a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Activists have criticized the companies for not doing enough to speak out against the bill. “#BoycottDelta” and “#BoycottCocaCola” were each used in tens of thousands of tweets since March 23, The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution reported. “Do not fly Delta. Do not spend money with Delta. Boycott Delta. Ruin Delta,” commentator Keith Olbermann tweeted.

Religious leaders of the AME Sixth Episcopal District of Georgia are among those calling for a boycott of Coca-Cola. If “Coca-Cola wants Black and brown people to drink their product, then they must speak up when our rights, our lives, and our very democracy as we know it is under attack,” Bishop Reginald Jackson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Voting rights groups have expressed anger and disappointment, too.

“We are all frustrated with these companies that claim that they are standing with the Black community around racial justice and racial equality. This shows that they lack a real commitment to racial equity. They are complicit in their silence,” co-founder of Black Voters Matter LaTosha Brown told The New York Times.

Many companies expressed support for racial justice last year, and activists see their actions now as missing follow through on earlier statements.

“It seems to me perfectly legitimate for Black voters in Georgia to expect them [corporations] to speak just as powerfully and directly about what is an unwarranted attack on the ability of Black voters to participate in the political process” NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc Sherrilyn Ifill said.

On March 15, protestors held a die-in at the World of Coca-Cola against the bill. Coca-Cola addressed calls for boycotts in an online statement: “You may see comments and calls for protests and boycotts of our state and our company. We have never wavered on our point of view and we have and will continue to meet with a wide array of stakeholders inside and outside of Georgia to hear their views, work together, and advocate for greater voting access.”

Georgia-based corporations have so far only offered broad support of voting rights without addressing many specifics of the bill.

“We believe voting is a foundational right in America and access should be broad-based and inclusive. Throughout the legislative session, we have been 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,” Coca-Cola said in a statement to Insider before the bill was signed.

“Last week controversial Georgia voting legislation was signed into law. While we are disappointed in the outcome, we don’t see this as the final chapter,” the Atlanta-based company added after it was passed.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian gave a similar statement.

“Delta believes that full and equal access to voting is a fundamental right for all citizens. Over the past several weeks Delta engaged extensively with state elected officials in both parties to express our strong view that Georgia must have a fair and secure election process, with broad voter participation and equal access to the polls. The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process … Nonetheless, we understand concerns remain over other provisions in the legislation and there continues to be work ahead in this important effort. We are committed to continuing to listen to our people and our communities, and engage with leaders from both parties to ensure every eligible employee and Georgia voter can exercise their right to vote.”

Home Depot did not comment on the bill directly at all.

“We believe that all elections should be accessible, fair, and secure and support broad voter participation. We’ll continue to work to ensure our associates, both in Georgia and across the country, have the information and resources to vote,” the company said in a statement to Insider, listing examples of how it carried out a Get Out the Vote campaign.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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