Guest Editorial: Companies must take a stand on voter suppression

In a letter to more than 90,000 parishioners, Bishop Reginald Jackson, who presides over more than 400 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia, said the state’s new Republican-backed election law is “racist and seeks to return us to the days of Jim Crow.”

Jackson is right to call for corporate leaders at companies like Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines to speak out in opposition.

“If we cannot persuade them or if they refuse to oppose this legislation then we will organize and implement a boycott of their companies,” the letter says.

A national boycott of some of Georgia’s largest businesses should be strongly considered if the leaders of these companies continue in not speaking out more forcefully against the law.

Coca-Cola said in a statement that the company has been engaged in “advocating for positive change in voting legislation.”

Delta Air Lines issued a statement touting some parts of the law, such as expanded weekend voting, but said “we understand concerns remain over other provisions in the legislation and there continues to be work ahead in this important effort.”

These statements are not enough.

We agree with the views cited in a letter signed the children of some of the nation’s most notable civil rights leaders that said that far “too many of our lawmakers failed to take a stand and corporations did not go far enough to ensure every voting citizen had fair and equitable access to the most basic of American rights.” The letter was written by Bernice A. King, the daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; Al Vivian, the son of the Rev. C.T. Vivian; and John-Miles Lewis, the son of U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the new election law last week just hours after it cleared the state legislature. The Georgia law adds a photo ID requirement for voting absentee by mail, cuts the amount of time people have to request an absentee ballot and limits where drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed. It also bans people from handing out food or water to voters waiting in line and allows the Republican-controlled State Election Board to remove and replace county election officials.

Republicans in Georgia argue that the law is needed to restore voters’ confidence.

Georgia is not alone. Republican controlled state legislatures across the country have backed similar election bills after former President Donald Trump made false claims about election fraud.

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Instead of trying to attract voters with good candidates and ideas, Republicans are seeking to discourage voters.

The change to Georgia’s election law was made after Democrats won the presidential contest and two U.S. Senate runoffs in the once reliably red state. A lawsuit filed Sunday by organizations including the Georgia NAACP against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other members of the State Election Board, asks a judge to find that the law violates the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act and to block state officials from enforcing it.

The complaint argues that Republican “officials have resorted to attempting to suppress the vote of Black voters and other voters of color in order to maintain the tenuous hold that the Republican Party has in Georgia.”

Georgia voting-rights leader Stacey Abrams was right to denounce the corporations’ spinelessness. She recently said “there should be no silence from the business community when anyone in power is trying to strip away the right to vote from the people.”

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin correctly points out that “corporate America, which made a public show of support during Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer and has in the past boycotted states over harsh immigration laws and laws discriminating against transgender people, has at best been silent and at worst supportive of the Jim Crow-style legislation.”

What can be done? “It should not fall to just Black politicians or civic leaders to do the heavy lifting. Americans who value their democracy can and should voice their displeasure so as to inflict public embarrassment or pain on corporations that think there is no downside to cuddling up to voter suppressors,” said Rubin

“Employees can protest or take collective action. Shareholders can voice their condemnation. Consumers can find another airline to fly or another soda to drink. Ordinary citizens can protest at corporate headquarters.”

The leaders of corporate America must be held accountable on this critical issue.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)

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