Pressure mounts on corporations to denounce GOP voting bills

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FILE - In this March 25, 2021, file photo African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Reginald Jackson announces a boycott of Coca-Cola Co. products outside the Georgia Capitol n Atlanta. Jackson says Coca-Cola and other large Georgia companies haven't done enough to oppose restrictive voting bills that Georgia lawmakers were debating as Jackson spoke (AP Photo/Jeff Amy, File)

ATLANTA – 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."