Friday October 22nd, 2021 6:23AM

Pressure mounts on corporations to denounce GOP voting bills

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ATLANTA (AP) — Liberal activists are stepping up calls for corporate America to denounce Republican efforts to tighten state voting laws, and businesses accustomed to cozy political relationships now find themselves in the middle of a growing partisan fight over voting rights.

Pressure is mounting on leading companies in Texas, Arizona and other states, particularly after Major League Baseball’s decision Friday to move the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta. A joint statement from executives at nearly 200 companies, including HP, Microsoft, PayPal, Target, Twitter, Uber and Under Armour, took aim at state legislation “threatening to make voting more difficult" and said “elections are not improved” when lawmakers impose new barriers to voting.

The outcry comes a week after Georgia Republicans enacted an overhaul of the state's election law that critics argue is an attempt to suppress Democratic votes.

Other companies have, somewhat belatedly, joined the chorus of critics.

Delta Air Lines and The Coca-Cola Co., two of Georgia’s best-known brands, this past week called the new law “unacceptable," although they had a hand in writing it. That only angered Republicans, including Gov. Brian Kemp and several U.S. senators, who accused the companies of cowering from unwarranted attacks from the left.

The fight has thrust corporate America into a place it often tries to avoid — the center of a partisan political fight. But under threat of boycott and bad publicity, business leaders are showing a new willingness to enter the fray on an issue not directly related to their bottom line, even if it means alienating Republican allies.

“We want to hold corporations accountable for how they show up when voting rights are under attack,” said Marc Banks, an NAACP spokesman. “Corporations have a part to play, because when they do show up and speak, people listen.”

Kemp said at a news conference Saturday that baseball “caved to fear and lies from liberal activists” and moving the game means ”cancel culture” is coming for American businesses. Kemp said state leaders worked in good faith with leaders in the business community on the legislation, including some of the same companies that have now “flip-flopped on this issue.” He added: “We shouldn’t apologize for making it easy to vote and hard to cheat."

Civil rights groups have sued to block the new Georgia law, which was passed after Democrats flipped the once-reliably Republican state in an election that Donald Trump falsely claimed was rife with fraud. Some activists have called for consumer boycotts of Delta, Coca-Cola and others. They dismiss business leaders’ assertions that they helped water down the bill to ease earlier, more restrictive proposals; those leaders, they argue, should have tried to block the plan altogether.

In Texas, the NAACP, League of Women Voters and League of United Latin American Citizens, among other organizations, are urging corporations in the state to speak out against a slate of Republican-backed voting proposals. “Democracy is good for business,” the campaign says.

Nine organizations took out full-page ads in The Houston Chronicle and The Dallas Morning News, the state’s leading newspapers, urging corporate opposition to the plan. The Texas proposal would limit some early voting hours, bar counties from setting up drive-thru voting and prohibit local officials from proactively sending applications for mail ballots before voters request them.

Unlike their Georgia-based counterparts, American Airlines and Dell Technologies didn’t wait for the Texas measure to pass. “To make American’s stance clear: We are strongly opposed to this bill and others like it,” American said in a statement.

Arizona, which Biden flipped from Trump in November, hasn’t seen high-profile corporate players engage yet. But 30-plus groups sent a joint letter to Allstate Insurance, CVS Health and Farmers’ Insurance, among others, urging their public opposition to proposed voting restrictions. Emily Kirkland, executive director of Progress Arizona, a progressive group that signed the letter, said there's been no response yet.

Other groups are demanding that corporations focus on Washington, where congressional Democrats are pushing measures intended to make it easier for Americans to vote, regardless of state laws. Among the changes, Democrats would enact automatic voter registration nationally and standardize access to early and mail voting.

Democrats also want to restore parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that require the federal government to approve all election procedures in states and locales with a history of discrimination. The Supreme Court struck down those provisions, which applied to Georgia and Arizona, among other states, in 2013.

Corporate giants were mostly quiet when Trump falsely claimed he lost because of fraud. Business leaders largely maintained that caution as Republican state lawmakers used Trump's lie to justify a flood of new bills to make it more cumbersome to vote.

The reticence was a stark contrast to how chambers of commerce reacted six years ago when Republican-run states pushed “religious freedom” measures. Indiana, under then-Gov. Mike Pence, the future vice president, saw immediate corporate backlash. After North Carolina passed a “bathroom bill” limiting LGBTQ rights in 2016, PayPal scuttled expansion plans there and the NBA moved its all-star game from Charlotte. An AP analysis in 2017 found the reaction would eventually cost North Carolina at least $3.76 billion in lost business.

Then, Georgia’s corporate lobbying groups — with Delta’s and Coca-Cola’s backing — took no such chances, speaking out forcefully against Georgia conservatives' version of a “religious freedom” bill. Lawmakers passed it anyway but Kemp’s predecessor, Republican Nathan Deal, vetoed it amid the chamber outcry.

Today, Delta and Coca-Cola's response to the Georgia voting fight is standing as a cautionary tale for other businesses.

Ed Bastian, the airline’s chief executive, initially released a statement noting the business lobby’s role in altering the bill as it moved through the General Assembly. Officials at the Atlanta Metro Chamber, where Bastian currently serves as president, detailed how corporate lobbyists spent weeks at the Capitol on mitigating provisions.

Some Georgia Republicans wanted to roll back the state’s no-excuse absentee voting law, end automatic voter registration and ban Sunday early voting used heavily by Black churches. They also wanted to require photocopies of state IDs to receive and submit absentee ballots, while banning “drop boxes” as ballot collection receptacles.

The final law preserved no-excuse absentee voting and automatic registration. The new ID requirement for absentee ballots allows a voter to write their state ID number, rather than produce a photocopy, and the legislature included funding for free state IDs. The law also codifies in-person early voting on weekends, although it allows counties to choose whether to be open for voting for up to two Sundays. And it made drop boxes of mail ballots a permanent fixture in Georgia, but limited the number.

Business leaders’ philosophy, according to Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan, was “basically, Republicans are going to pass something, so they might as well try to keep from being awful.”

But by Wednesday, the same day 72 Black business executives published a letter in The New York Times urging corporate leaders to speak out, Bastian was more direct. He sent a companywide memo declaring the law “unacceptable” and “based on a lie” — though he didn’t mention Trump.

Big business’s mistake, Jordan said, was “thinking there was ever any version that wouldn’t end up like this.”


Associated Press writers David Koenig in Dallas; Acacia Coronado and Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas; and Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Baseball , AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Online Headlines - Georgia News, AP Elections - Campaigns, AP Sports - Major League Baseball
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Pressure mounts on corporations to denounce GOP voting bills
Liberal activists are ratcheting up their calls on corporate America to denounce the GOP campaign to tighten state voting laws
12:14AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Man gives untold perspective on Reagan assassination attempt
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — If you’re about 50 or older, you probably remember where you were when you learned President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt 40 years ago on March 3...
12:01AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Bodanovic scores 26 points, Hawks beat Pelicans 126-103
Bogdan Bodanovic scored 26 points, Kevin Huerter added 24 and five other Atlanta players scored in double figures as the short-handed Hawks beat the injury-slowed New Orleans Pelicans 126-103
11:56PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Bauer has no-hitter through 6 innings in Dodgers debut
Trevor Bauer is pitching a no-hitter through six innings in his Los Angeles Dodgers debut against the Colorado Rockies
10:54PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: California clears way for indoor concerts, games
California has cleared the way for people to attend indoor concerts, theater performances and NBA games for the first time in more than a year as the rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus in the state nears a record low
9:44PM ( 2 hours ago )
Raptors rout Warriors 130-77 for 2nd win in last 15 games
Pascal Siakam scored 36 points in three quarters and the Toronto Raptors routed the Golden State Warriors 130-77
9:41PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Sports
MLB moving All-Star Game in response to voting restrictions
Major League Baseball has moved the All-Star Game from Atlanta’s Truist Park, a response to Georgia enacting a new law last month restricting voting rights
3:43PM ( 8 hours ago )
The Latest: NHL juggles schedule after COVID postponements
The NHL has moved Winnipeg’s home game against Ottawa that was originally scheduled for the first week in May to Monday
3:07PM ( 9 hours ago )
Amid glow open day, cloud looms over MLB All-Star Game
Amid the glow of baseball’s opening day, there's a cloud looming over the All-Star Game still more than three months away
1:20PM ( 11 hours ago )
AP Online Baseball
Few in GOP rush to defend Gaetz amid sex trafficking probe
The political peril is deepening for conservative Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz
9:18PM ( 3 hours ago )
Officer killed in attack outside Capitol an 18-year veteran
A U.S. Capitol Police officer who died after a man rammed his car into him and another officer at a barricade was identified as an 18-year veteran of the force
8:55PM ( 3 hours ago )
California to allow indoor gatherings as virus cases plummet
California will allow indoor concerts, theater performances and other private gatherings starting April 15
8:11PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Big effort aims to elect candidates with science backgrounds
A group working to elect candidates with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds plans to spend $50 million in the 2022 midterm elections
2:38PM ( 9 hours ago )
Car rams 2 officers at Capitol barricade; driver shot dead
Two law enforcement officials say a man rammed a car into two Capitol Police officers at a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol before being shot to death by authorities when he climbed out of the vehicle while appearing to brandish a knife
2:37PM ( 9 hours ago )
Car rams Capitol barricade, injuring 2 cops; driver killed
Two law enforcement officials say a man rammed a car into two Capitol Police officers at a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol before being shot to death by authorities when he climbed out of the vehicle while appearing to brandish a knife
2:33PM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
NYC mayor hopeful Yang in hospital for apparent kidney stone
New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang is in the hospital Friday with an apparent kidney stone
9:33AM ( 14 hours ago )
Lawmakers censure Dutch PM Rutte over coalition talks
Caretaker Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s political future is in doubt after lawmakers passed a motion of censure against him that was filed by two parties in his own outgoing coalition
9:43PM ( 1 day ago )
Former California cop leads GOP dream of Newsom recall
The man behind the effort to remove California Gov. Gavin Newsom from office is a retired county sheriff's sergeant who grew frustrated in 2019 with the governor's policies
1:12PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Elections
Christians mark Good Friday, Holy Week under virus woes
For a second year, Christians in the Holy Land are marking Good Friday without the mass pilgrimages usually seen in the Holy Week leading up to Easter because of the coronavirus
7:51PM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Nebraska rancher's virus-damaged lungs replaced
A 31-year-old Nebraska cattle rancher is recovering after doctors replaced his coronavirus-damaged lungs
6:54PM ( 5 hours ago )
March hiring accelerated to 916K, yet many jobs remain lost
America’s employers unleashed a burst of hiring in March, adding 916,000 jobs in a sign that a sustained recovery from the pandemic recession is taking hold as vaccinations accelerate, stimulus checks flow through the economy and businesses increasingly reopen
5:16PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Business
Tesla 1Q sales of 185K more than double last year's numbers
Tesla delivered nearly 185,000 electric vehicles in the first quarter despite a shortage of computer chips that has hit the global auto industry
10:16AM ( 14 hours ago )
Corporate criticism of GOP-led voting bills spreads to Texas
The ranks of big corporations now criticizing GOP efforts to restrict voting access are spreading to Texas
8:53PM ( 1 day ago )
Frontier Airlines hopes IPO rides wave of travel recovery
Fans of Frontier Airlines can now buy a piece of the budget carrier
6:19PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
A key to bridging the political divide: Sit down and talk?
One Small Step is among a growing number of nonprofit initiatives whose aim is to narrow America’s increasingly toxic political divide
12:57PM ( 4 days ago )
Former Trump adviser takes prominent role in voting battle
A GOP lawyer who advised former President Donald Trump on his campaign to overturn the 2020 election results is now playing a central role coordinating the Republican effort to tighten voting laws around the country
3:26PM ( 5 days ago )
In likely California recall, energizing Latino voters is key
California Latinos, who have borne the brunt of pandemic deaths and job losses in the state, are a critical voting bloc for Gov. Gavin Newsom as he fights to save his political career
5:53PM ( 1 week ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
Astros' Correa planning for free agency, no hard feelings
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa says he hasn’t seriously discussed a long-term deal with Houston and plans to seek a big payday in free agency next offseason
10:38PM ( 1 day ago )
Lindor: Easy decision to sign $341M, 10-year deal with Mets
Francisco Lindor and the New York Mets agreed to a $341 million, 10-year pact on the eve of opening day, terms that could keep the four-time All-Star in Queens for the rest of his career
8:04PM ( 1 day ago )
US draws close to 100M vaccinations as baseball resumes
The U.S. is moving closer toward vaccinating 100 million Americans against COVID-19 in a race against an uptick in cases that health officials fear could lead to another surge of infections
7:51PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Sports - Major League Baseball
Man gives untold perspective on Reagan assassination attempt
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — If you’re about 50 or older, you probably remember where you were when you learned President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt 40 years ago on March 3...
12:01AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Bodanovic scores 26 points, Hawks beat Pelicans 126-103
Bogdan Bodanovic scored 26 points, Kevin Huerter added 24 and five other Atlanta players scored in double figures as the short-handed Hawks beat the injury-slowed New Orleans Pelicans 126-103
11:56PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Arizona reaches NCAA title game with 69-59 win over UConn
Aari McDonald scored 26 points and lead a smothering defensive effort for Arizona as the Wildcats beat UConn 69-59 Friday night to advance to the women’s NCAA Tournament championship game for the first time in school history
11:52PM ( 33 minutes ago )
Stanford tops South Carolina 66-65 to reach title game
Haley Jones scored 24 points, including the go-ahead jumper with 32 seconds left, to help Stanford beat South Carolina 66-65 and advance to the national championship game
11:38PM ( 47 minutes ago )
Taiwan prosecutors probe train crash that killed 51
Prosecutors in Taiwan have questioned the owner of an unmanned truck that rolled onto a rail track and caused the country’s worst train disaster in decades that killed 51 people and injured 146, though no charges have been filed
11:19PM ( 1 hour ago )