Coke, Delta oppose Georgia’s ‘unacceptable’ voting law

 Coke, Delta oppose Georgia’s ‘unacceptable’ voting law

The chief executives of two of Georgia’s biggest corporations sharply criticized the state’s voting restrictions, reversing weeks of milder statements about the new election law pushed through the Legislature by Republican lawmakers.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo to employees Wednesday that the law was “unacceptable” and “based on a lie” of widespread fraud in last November’s election. Hours later, Coca-Cola’s CEO also pronounced the measure “unacceptable.”

The statements came as Georgia companies faced growing threats of boycotts from voting rights advocates who say local corporations should have done more to oppose the legislation before it was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp last week. Tens of thousands of social media posts carrying the hashtags #BoycottDelta, #BoycottDeltaAirlines and #BoycottCocaCola proliferated on Twitter in recent days.

The CEOs’ comments triggered threats of backlash from Republican legislators who embraced the contentious election overhaul as a necessary measure to restore confidence.

Kemp and other GOP leaders say they were caught off guard by the opposition, and the Georgia House retaliated by narrowly voting to end a lucrative tax break on jet fuel during the final, frenzied day of the legislative session. The measure never came up for a final vote in the Senate, where leaders are more lukewarm on overtly punishing Delta.

“They like our public policy when we’re doing things that benefit them,” said House Speaker David Ralston, adding: “You don’t feed a dog that bites your hand. You got to keep that in mind sometimes.”

Dozens of top Black executives from across the country also said the new law curbed democracy. Tech giant Microsoft, which is planning a major investment in Atlanta, said the changes “unfairly restrict” voter rights.

Other critics of the legislation, meanwhile, asked why companies waited until now to openly criticize it.

In his memo, Bastian said the new voting restrictions will make it harder for underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect representatives in the state.

“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” Bastian wrote.

James Quincey, Coca-Cola’s chief executive, appeared on CNBC later Wednesday to call the legislation “wrong” and urge lawmakers to revisit it.

“This legislation is unacceptable. It’s a step backwards and it does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity,” said Quincey.

Kemp said that at “no point” did Delta raise objections with his office about some of the controversial provisions in the measure before he signed it into law.

“Today’s statement by Delta CEO Ed Bastian stands in stark contrast to our conversations with the company, ignores the content of the new law, and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists,” said the first-term Republican.

Kemp later appeared on CNBC to respond more broadly to corporate opposition.

“I would encourage these CEOs to look at other states they’re doing business in and compare the facts to what’s happening in Georgia,” he said. “If they want to have a debate about the merits, the facts, of the bill then we should do that.”

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