Delta now says voter suppression law is 'unacceptable' after boycott threats

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Delta Air Lines had faced a boycott being organized by civil rights groups and Black churches against businesses headquartered in Georgia.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian on Wednesday apologized for the company's initial response to a voter suppression law enacted in Georgia last week.

On Friday, Delta had issued a statement on the new law attributed to Bastian that read, "The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process, and expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting and protects a voter's ability to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason."

After the company faced a boycott being organized by civil rights groups and Black churches against businesses headquartered in Georgia, including Coca-Cola and Delta, Bastian issued a statement to Delta employees calling the law "unacceptable":

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

 

The right to vote is sacred. It is fundamental to our democracy and those rights not only need to be protected, but easily facilitated in a safe and secure manner.

 

After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong.

 

The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.

Bastian said Delta is going to "do everything in our power to hear and protect your voice and your rights, both in Georgia and nationwide."

"Some in the corporate community in Georgia and around the nation have remained silent or even embraced," Bishop Reginald Jackson of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church wrote in a letter Tuesday to his parishioners in 500 churches in Georgia. "For example, The Coca-Cola Company has watched silently and done nothing to fight as this bill moved forward to become law. And recently, Delta Airlines wrote an 'in house' memo in which they actually praised the law. Silence, inaction, or blind support represents complicity. They are like Paul in the Book of Acts, 'I stood there, standing by and consenting.'"

Georgia's new law will mandate ID requirements for voting by mail, limit the use of ballot drop boxes, and give the State Election Board, currently run by Republicans, the authority to replace the members of county election boards.

Georgia Democratic state Rep. Josh McLaurin told Vox, "I think the provision for state takeover of local election processes is a natural choice for a party whose election policy is driven by Trump's 'big lie.' By centralizing control over those processes, Republicans make their own manipulation easier while also removing a principal barrier to their lies."

Voting rights groups had hoped that putting pressure on large corporations like Delta and Coca-Cola could scare Republicans out of passing voter suppression laws.

Boycotts have worked in the past in efforts to reverse discriminatory legislation passed by GOP state lawmakers, including the NBA's opposition to an anti-transgender bathroom law in North Carolina in 2016 and the NCAA's opposition to an anti-LGBTQ religious freedom law in Indiana in 2015.

In addition to boycotts, civil and voting rights groups have filed three federal lawsuits against Georgia political leaders so far over the new law.

The For the People Act of 2021, now making its way through Congress, would address such efforts and prevent states from implementing measures aimed at making it more difficult to vote.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.