Corporate executives set to join effort to increase voter access in the wake of new voting laws: WSJ

In this Jan. 19, 2018, file photo, American Express Chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault listens during an interview with The Associated Press in New York. Chenault was chief executive officer and chairman of American Express until Jan. 31. In his last interview before retiring, Chenault talked to The Associated Press about the new tax law, being a black CEO, and what greater competition means for AmEx.
Kenneth Chenault.

  • Top business leaders met on Zoom this weekend to map out their response to new voting restrictions.
  • The WSJ reported that CEOs were asked to sign a statement opposing restrictive voting legislation.
  • “This is a nonpartisan issue, this is a moral issue,” Kenneth Chenault, former CEO and Chairman of American Express, told the Journal last month.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Numerous chief executives and senior leaders met on a Zoom call this weekend to map out how businesses should respond to new voting restrictions that are set to be enacted in Texas and other states across the country, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding Georgia’s new voting law, SB 202, with Major League Baseball pulling the 2021 All-Star Game from the state and companies like Coca-Cola and Delta pushing back against restrictive voting provisions, this effort would represent a significant development in the corporate sector weighing in on voting rights.

During the call, Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive officer of Merck & Co., asked the leaders to “collectively call for greater voting access,” according to the Journal report.

Chenault and Frazier, two of the most prominent Black business leaders in the US, also reportedly told businesses not to walk away from the voting right issue and requested that CEOs sign a statement “opposing what they view as discriminatory legislation on voting.”

The statement from a new constellation of business leaders could be released as soon as this week, according to the Journal.

Last month, 72 Black executives signed an open letter that was featured in The New York Times, asking for companies and business leaders to offer pushback against legislation that would infringe on voting rights.

Chenault informed the business executives on the call that several leaders would back the effort, including executives at PepsiCo, PayPal Holdings, T. Rowe Price, and Hess, among other companies.

“This is a nonpartisan issue, this is a moral issue,” he told the Journal last month.

Read more: Introducing Todd Young, the most important senator you’ve never heard of

Frazier said that as an increased number of states take up legislation similar to Georgia’s SB 202, companies have to take action.

“This is not a Georgia issue,” he told the Journal.

The Georgia law tightens election rules in the state by limiting drop boxes, strengthening voter identification requirements, and blocks the use of mobile voting vans, among other measures.

Mellody Hobson, the chairwoman of Starbucks Corp., said on the call that the controversies surrounding the new voting laws are “bad for business” and hopes that businesses can devise ways to work on voting issues, according to the Journal.

AMC CEO Adam Aron, Estée Lauder Cos. director Lynn Forester de Rothschild, and CyberCore Technologies CEO Tina Kuhn all reportedly backed the new statement, according to the Journal report.

As some companies have become increasingly vocal about voting access, Republican leaders from Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have railed against pushback to the new legislation.

Kemp has accused business leaders of adhering to “cancel culture” and McConnell recently warned them not to become “a vehicle for far-left mobs.”

But some companies are hesitant to jump into any hotly-debated political issue altogether, aware that any position that take could alienate a portion of their business or customer base.

“It’s really a no-win situation from a corporate standpoint,” a Fortune 100 business executive told the Journal.

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says that voters waiting in long lines can order from Uber Eats

Brian Kemp
Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Georgia) speaks during an April 3 news conference in Atlanta about Major League Baseball’s decision to move the 2021 All-Star Game over the league’s objection to the state’s new voting law.

  • Gov. Brian Kemp suggested that voters waiting in long lines could order food from delivery apps.
  • “They can order a pizza,” he said. “They can order Grubhub or Uber Eats, right?”
  • Kemp then accused Democratic-led jurisdictions of mismanaging their elections.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

GOP Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia suggested in a Newsmax interview earlier this week that voters waiting in line to vote could order food from online delivery apps like Grubhub or Uber Eats, as he continues to face blowback for the 2021 MLB All-Star Game leaving the state over its newly-enacted voting law.

The law, known as the Election Integrity Act of 2021 or SB 202, tightens election rules in the state by limiting drop boxes, strengthening voter identification requirements, and banning water and food from being distributed by volunteers to voters waiting in line, among other measures. It has been slammed by prominent Democrats including President Joe Biden and former Georgia state House Minority Leader and potential 2022 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

Several major companies – including Coca-Cola and Delta – have spoken out against the bill or voter suppression more broadly, which has upset Kemp and most statewide Republicans, who say the law is being distorted.

Kemp addressed one of the more contentious aspects of the law, which bars volunteers from distributing water or food to voters in line.

“They can order a pizza,” Kemp said of voters waiting to vote. “They can order Grubhub or Uber Eats, right?”

He added: “The county officials can provide water stations. This is just within 150 feet of the precinct. If you’re 151 feet, campaigns can set up tables, food trucks … they can hang up flyers and set up signs. This is all they [Democrats] have to grasp at.”

Read more: Introducing Todd Young, the most important senator you’ve never heard of

Kemp then accused Democratic-led jurisdictions of bungling their own election administration.

“The question too that you need to ask … Why are voters standing in line that long?,” he said. “It’s because it’s in Democratic-controlled counties. They need to do a better job of running their elections and moving people through the lines so that they’re not standing out there so long. Voters should be furious that that’s the case.”

Last year, a ProPublica and Georgia Public Broadcasting investigation found that the cause of the state’s voting issues were the state’s population growth, which has been accelerated by new residents in the blue-trending Atlanta suburbs, along with a failure to increase the number of polling precincts.

The report showed that while the state’s voting rolls had increased by 2 million people since 2013, polling locations have declined by 10 percent, especially in the populous Atlanta metropolitan region.

GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asked for additional resources and polling precincts after being elected in 2018, but was unable to push legislation through the GOP-led legislature before the 2020 presidential election, which saw Biden win the state by roughly 12,000 votes.

During the Democratic presidential primary held in the state last June, The Guardian spoke with Simone Alisa, an Atlanta voter who waited for five hours to vote after initially expecting that she might only have to wait 30 minutes.

“Something’s wrong with this picture,” she said after finally casting her vote.

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An ex-Fox News host walked out a BBC interview after clashing with a Black activist over Georgia’s restrictive voting laws

Bolling meltdown
Fox News’ Eric Bolling stormed out of a BBC debate on Georgia’s new election restrictions.

  • Eric Bolling, formerly of Fox News, walked out of a BBC debate on Wednesday.
  • He was criticised for his defense of Georgia’s new voting restrictions by Aisha Mills.
  • “Because I’m white, you think I’m racist? That’s BS. I’m done,” said Bolling.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Eric Bolling walked out a BBC interview Wednesday after an exchange with political commentator Aisha Mills about new laws in Georgia restricting access to voting.

In the debate on the BBC’s “Newsnight” program, Bolling said the decision by some corporations to speak out against the new restrictions could lead to boycotts from Republicans and end up impacting Black communities economically.

Bolling was a longtime Fox personality until 2017, when he left the company after being accused of sexual harassment.

In response to his claim on “Newsnight,” Mills responded: “I think it’s really rich for any Republican, especially a white man, to run around and claim they care about the economic condition of Black communities and Black businesses when that’s all a lie.”

“That is not fair!” Bolling said. “You don’t know me. You don’t know who I am.”

“I am a Black person in America,” Mills said. “Everything these voting laws stand for and what they look like is reminiscent of the Jim Crow policies that my family lived under. So this is all about racial discrimination.

“And how dare you try to act like you are somehow a proponent of Black people and businesses just to make a point and try to create a wedge? It’s ignorant and it’s just disrespectful.”

At this point, Bolling tried to cut the interview short.

“You know what? That’s disgusting,” Bolling replied. “I’m done. Put me off. That’s disgusting. I am nowhere near anything you are painting me to be, and the problem with American politics is exactly that. Because I’m white, you think I’m racist? That’s BS. I’m done.”

Host Emily Maitlis tried to persuade Bolling to stay for another question, and he agreed on the condition that Mills apologise.

“I’m not going to apologize for being offended,” Mills replied, as Maitlis tried to get the interview back on track.

At which point Bolling left for good, saying again “I’m done.”

The Georgia voting laws have been the subject of intense controversy since being signed into law by state governor Brian Kemp in March, with President Joe Biden likening them to the Jim Crow laws that once enforced racial segregation in the South.

The laws make absentee voting harder, and create new restrictions that will disproportionately affect Black voters.

They were passed by the GOP-controlled state Congress in the wake of Biden’s victory in the state in last year’s presidential election, and Georgia Republicans in January losing both the state’s US Senate seats to Democrats.

Companies including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, major employers in the state, have spoken out against the proposed changes, and the MLB cancelled an All Stars game in protest.

Republicans have defended the laws, with Kemp pointing to the Democratic-controlled states of New York and Delaware that have more restrictive voting laws than Georgia. He said the new laws expand access to voting and ensure greater election security.

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