Georgia groups are lobbying Coca-Cola and other corporations over voting rights

New roadside billboards in Atlanta are urging Coca-Cola, Home Depot and other Georgia-based corporations to oppose voting restrictions proposed by Republican state lawmakers.

Voting rights groups in the state are launching a campaign Monday calling upon corporations to speak out publicly against legislation that they argue would suppress access to voting, especially among of people of color, who tend to support Democratic candidates.
“Hey Coca-Cola! The Freedom to vote tastes good to all Georgians,” one of the billboards reads. “Join us: STAND UP for Georgia.”
    The billboards also are targeting other corporations based in the state, including Home Depot, Delta Air Lines and insurance provider Aflac.
      This message is aimed at Home Depot, which is also based in Atlanta.

      Last week, Republicans advanced a sweeping bill in the state Senate that would repeal no-excuse absentee voting for many Georgians — a method 1.3 million of the state’s residents used to cast ballots in last November’s election.
        The measure would establish new ID rules requiring Georgians to submit an approved form of identification both when requesting absentee ballots and returning the ballots. Republican lawmakers in Georgia and other battleground states have cited constituent concerns about voting integrity after the election was marred by baseless allegations of voter fraud pushed by former President Donald Trump and other GOP officials.
        The measure has moved to the Georgia House, which has passed its own slate of proposed voting restrictions.
          Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, has not said whether he would sign the bills into law in their current form. But his spokeswoman Mallory Blount told CNN via email last week that Kemp “has been clear about his support for strengthened voter ID provisions on absentee voting.”
          Nsé Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project, which seeks to boost voter participation, said the bills target Black and brown voters, many of whom are employed by corporations based in the state that have publicly voiced commitment to Black people.
          “We know that throughout the history of social movements having corporate actors weigh in has been helpful in dragging the country forward to the place where it needs to be,” Ufot told CNN. “The hope is that they can intervene in the legislature but also that they can put pressure on the governor to veto these bills.”

          The corporations say they support voting rights

          Coca-Cola, Delta, Home Depot and Aflac have all told CNN they are committed to voter rights.
          In a statement to CNN, Coca-Cola said voting is “a foundational right” in the US and that the company will “continue to work to advance voting rights and access.”
          Coca-Cola said it supports the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in their efforts “to help facilitate a balanced approach to the elections bills that have been introduced in the Georgia Legislature this session.”
          “The ultimate goal should be fair, secure elections where access to voting is broad-based and inclusive,” the company said.
          A spokeswoman for Delta said the company did not make any individual contributions to Georgia House or Senate candidates in 2020 due to the pandemic.
          “Ensuring an election system that promotes broad voter participation, equal access to the polls, and fair, secure elections processes are critical to voter confidence and creates an environment that ensures everyone’s vote is counted,” the airline said in a statement.
          Aflac said it has paused all political donations in the wake of the January 6 Capitol insurrection and that the company has “a long history of supporting fairness and justice.”
          “The right to Vote in national, state and local elections is the cornerstone of democracy. We need to join together to ensure accessible and secure voting while preserving election integrity and transparency,” Aflac said. “As this important issue is debated in Georgia and statehouses across the nation, we expect that fairness and integrity will be the ongoing basis for discussion.”
          Sara Gorman, a Home Depot spokeswoman, said the company had an internal campaign promoting voter registration and helped its employees volunteer at polling stations across the country.
          “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,” Gorman said.

          The campaign is the latest battle in a long fight over voting rights in Georgia

          Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee who has spent years championing voting rights in the state, has criticized the GOP’s legislative efforts to restrict voting access.
          “I do absolutely agree that it’s racist. It is a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie,” Abrams told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, referring to laws that institutionalized racism and segregation in the 19th and 20th centuries.
          “The only connection that we can find is that more people of color voted, and it changed the outcome of elections in a direction Republicans do not like,” she added.
          The Georgia bill is part of a flurry of legislation by Republican-controlled statehouses around the country that would make it harder for Americans to vote. The proposed laws come after the GOP lost the presidency and its US Senate majority in the 2020 elections.
          Legislators in 43 states have introduced more than 250 bills this year with provisions that would restrict voting access, according to a tally from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
            “I will tell other folks in other states that now is the time for them to stand up. This is a fight that’s happening in Georgia but it’s happening in other states.” Ufot said. “This is a coordinated attack on our elections.”
            The New Georgia Project and other advocacy groups have said the proposed voting restrictions may violate existing federal voting rights laws and they are prepared to take legal action if necessary.

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