GOP's new voter suppression law could be very bad news for Georgia

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Activists are threatening to boycott major businesses in the state and Major League Baseball players want the All-Star Game moved out of Georgia over the new law that restricts voting rights.

The state of Georgia could see major losses in business after Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a new omnibus law that makes it harder to vote in the state, particularly for voters of color.

In response to the law, civil rights groups, Black churches, and other groups, one comprised of thousands of suburban women, are organizing boycotts of businesses headquartered in the Peach State, including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines.

Delta drew the ire of activists after the company's CEO issued a statement praising the changes that had been made to the legislation before it was passed — even though the law still makes it harder to vote by requiring ID to vote by mail and limiting the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, while allowing Republicans to take over county election boards, which could make it harder to vote in Democratic strongholds. The law even makes it a crime to hand out food and drinks to voters waiting in long lines to cast ballots.

And though the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Coca-Cola told its employees that it is "disappointed in the outcome" and will continue to work to fight against voter suppression tactics, activists in the state said that wasn't enough.

"Coca-Cola wants Black and brown people to drink their product, then they must speak up when our rights, our lives, and our very democracy as we know it is under attack," AME Sixth Episcopal District Bishop Reginald Jackson told the Journal-Constitution.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball's Players Association is open to discussing whether to force the league to move the 2021 All-Star game, which is currently slated to be held in Atlanta.

Katie Paris, co-founder of Red Wine & Blue — which seeks to engage suburban women in the political process — told the American Independent Foundation the group plans to support the boycotts and has already collected nearly 10,000 signatures to an open letter to Coca-Cola's CEO.

"Suburban women who got involved politically in response to Trump are staying engaged. We are following the lead of organizers on the ground in Georgia and supporting their efforts with our purchasing power," Paris said. "We stepped up in 2020 and we know we have to keep doing our part. Voter suppression hurts us all."

Boycotts have been an effective strategy in the past to get Republican legislatures to backtrack on discriminatory legislation.

After North Carolina passed an anti-transgender bathroom law in 2016, the NBA pulled its All-Star Game from the state in protest, and the NCAA threatened to boycott the state and move its flagship March Madness basketball tournament. The pressure, and possible loss of billions in business revenue, got the GOP-controlled Legislature to amend the discriminatory law.

In 2015, the NCAA similarly threatened to boycott the state of Indiana, where the organization is headquartered, over a discriminatory "religious freedom" law that would have allowed for discrimination against the LGBTQ community. It got then-Gov. Mike Pence to push the GOP Legislature to change the law.

As for Georgia, if the state's major businesses take a hit, or the MLB pulls the All-Star Game, it could cause enough of an economic impact to make a difference.

Cobb County Chair Lisa Cupid said in a video statement on Tuesday that moving the game from the state would cause financial damage.

"Some are asserting that they will boycott our businesses and not travel to our state," Cupid said in the statement. "This would have a negative impact to us in Cobb County, as our top industries are retail travel and tourism."

As of now, civil rights leaders say companies in Georgia have not been vocal enough in opposing the new law, despite public pressure to do so.

"We are all frustrated with these companies that claim that they are standing with the Black community around racial justice and racial equality," LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter, which is also suing the state over the law, told the New York Times. "This shows that they lack a real commitment to racial equity. They are complicit in their silence.”

Civil rights activists say the new law directly targets Black voters, who have become a larger percentage of the electorate as Georgia's demographics change. Black Americans overwhelmingly vote Democratic and helped give the state's 16 Electoral College votes to President Joe Biden, in addition to catapulting Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to victory — amounting to a Democratic sweep of the federal elections in the state.

"Unable to stem the tide of these demographic changes or change the voting patterns of voters of color, these 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," a second lawsuit filed against Georgia Republican election officials says.

The Georgia law is part of a massive nationwide GOP effort to make it harder to vote in the wake of Donald Trump's loss in 2020. In order to excuse his loss, Trump lied about the election being rife with fraud and has pushed Republicans to pass needless and restrictive voting laws in response.

Congressional Democrats are working to pass the For the People Act — a sweeping pro-democracy bill that would block laws like Georgia's from being enforceable. The bill would require states to automatically register eligible residents to vote, expand access to absentee ballots, and limit the restrictive use of voter ID, among other things.

A bill that would allow greater access to the ballot has led to an outcry from congressional Republicans, who are vowing to block the bill's passage in the Senate — even though their own polling shows the legislation is popular.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.