Stacey Abrams: Georgia companies shouldn’t face boycott ‘yet’ over election law

Stacey Abrams said critics of Georgia’s restrictive new election law shouldn’t rush to boycott the state’s leading firms and biggest events “yet” over their refusal to forcefully oppose the far-reaching overhaul.

Instead, she said the state’s corporate giants should use the chance to publicly condemn the law, invest in voting rights expansion and support wide-ranging federal election legislation before they’re targeted with a boycott movement.

“The companies that stood silently by or gave mealy-mouthed responses during the debate were wrong,” Abrams said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “What people want to know now is where they stand on this fundamental issue of voting rights.”

Her comments come amid a growing push by Democrats and voting rights groups to punish major Georgia corporations that stood on the sidelines or offered tepid statements about the GOP-backed new elections law that’s already facing three separate legal challenges.

Gov. Brian Kemp last week signed the sweeping election measure that requires ID to submit mail-in votes, curbs the use of ballot boxes and gives the Republican-controlled Legislature more say over local elections. Earlier versions went further by substantially limiting weekend and absentee voting.

Kemp and other Republican supporters say the overhaul will help restore confidence in the state’s election, which was undermined by former President Donald Trump’s repeated falsehoods about widespread fraud in Georgia elections.

After weeks of mild statements, the chief executives of Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines on Wednesday both announced their opposition to the new law as “unacceptable” and “based on a lie.” The criticism blindsided state Republicans and triggered an aborted effort to rescind a tax break that saved Delta more than $35 million a year.

Abrams said it’s “deeply disappointing” the companies didn’t wade in before Kemp signed the measure, but she said she’s optimistic that lawmakers could revisit the most controversial provisions later this year during an already-planned special session.

“Hopefully, we’ll build such a hue and cry that the Legislature will have to correct what they’ve done,” she said. “But these companies sell their products across the country, and across the country there are Black and brown voters who need to know they’re not being left behind.”

Kemp and other Republicans have been critical of talk of economic backlash over the voting law. The governor said “boycotting Georgia business in the middle of a pandemic is absolutely ridiculous” and that it would punish rank-and-file workers trying to prosper during a tough time.

In the interview, Abrams also pushed back against claims by Kemp and other Republicans who frame the changes as incremental improvements to an election system that came under duress last year.

“These are not men and women who are unclear about their motives and their effect,” she said. “These bills are being promulgated across the country with the intended effect of blocking voters who are becoming inconvenient to the Republican Party: voters of color, young people and the poor.”