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Boycotts Can Moderate Georgia Voting Law

Corey Friedman on

Voter suppression, meet your match: corporate responsibility.

Eight days after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a controversial election reform bill into law, Major League Baseball announced plans to relocate the All-Star Game and MLB draft from Atlanta to a new host city, citing Senate Bill 202's voting restrictions.

Georgia-based Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines sharply criticized the law, and a group of pastors is urging people to boycott Coke, Delta and Home Depot to leverage the companies' political influence. More consequences are sure to follow.

"Georgia: welcome to what North Carolina experienced in 2016," Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer wrote in a Friday tweet.

Bitzer was referring to the North Carolina Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, better known as House Bill 2, a transgender bathroom ban that required people to use the restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities that match the sex recorded on their birth certificates.

Though it was all bark and no bite, lacking enforcement provisions and criminal penalties, the law sparked a ruinous economic boycott.

 

Facing the threat of lucrative college basketball championship games moved to other states, Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper reached a compromise to repeal most of the law in March 2017.

Critics say Georgia's elections law has something in common with North Carolina's bathroom bill: Both target historically marginalized minorities. The NAACP, which is among a half-dozen organizations suing the state under the Voting Rights Act, says the legislation is intended to disenfranchise Black voters.

Titled the Election Integrity Act, Senate Bill 202 is a 98-page grab bag. Not every provision is problematic; some, such as an expansion of early voting opportunities, are reforms progressives might cheer in a stand-alone bill. But restrictions including a widely unpopular ban on "line warming" are stoking nationwide outrage.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has long objected to volunteers handing out snacks and beverages to voters waiting in line outside polling places. In a December press release, he described the practice as "a loophole to conduct political activity in violation of state law."

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