Voting Rights
April 11, 2021

Dozens of executives from leading U.S. manufacturers, retailers, and airlines participated in a Zoom call on Saturday to discuss ways they can show opposition to restrictive voting bills under consideration in some states, and already passed in Georgia.

Four people on the call — including organizer Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a management professor at Yale — told The Washington Post on Sunday that the executives talked about possibly stopping donations to lawmakers who back these measures and postponing investments in the states. On the call were leaders from Starbucks, Target, Levi Strauss, United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, LinkedIn, Boston Consulting Group, and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the Post reports.

The participants did not come up with a concrete plan, the Post reports, but Sonnenfeld said the call shows politicians like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said companies need to "stay out of politics," that the executives "are not intimidated by the flak. They are not going to be cowed. They felt very strongly that these voting restrictions are based on a flawed premise and are dangerous."

Several companies, including Coca-Cola, Delta, and Citigroup, have come out against Georgia's controversial new voting law, which gives voters less time to request mail-in ballots, limits the number of ballot drop boxes for early voting in urban areas, and gives state lawmakers more power over county and local elections. Catherine Garcia

April 5, 2021

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is the latest Republican to lash out at Major League Baseball over its decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia's controversial new voting law, which critics say will suppress voters' rights.

Rubio penned a letter to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday, clearly aiming to paint the move as a hypocritical one. "I write to ask whether you intend to maintain your membership at Augusta National Golf Club," Rubio asked, referring to the famous golf club where the Masters is played every year. "As you are well aware, the exclusive members-only club is located in the State of Georgia."

The letter also focused on MLB's partnership to help grow the sport in China, and its engagement with the Cuban Baseball Federation. "Will you end your lucrative financial relationship with Tencent, a company with deep ties to the Communist Party" that "actively helps the Chinese government hunt down and silence political dissidents?," he added.

Rubio wrote that he has no expectations any of those changes will happen. The reason the league reacted the way it did to Georgia, he argued, is because it was "an easy way to signal virtues without significant financial fallout," while "speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party would involve a significant loss of revenue and being closed out of a lucrative market." Read the full letter here. Tim O'Donnell

April 3, 2021

Hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet may still be ok, but baseball is on the outs with some prominent Republican politicians.

MLB announced Friday that it will pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta, Georgia, because of the Peach State's controversial new voting law, which critics, including President Biden, say will lead to voter suppression.

The move even prompted one of former President Donald Trump's rare post-Twitter statements. "Baseball is already losing tremendous numbers of fans, and now they leave Atlanta because they are afraid of the radical left Democrats," he wrote Friday night before issuing a warning to major corporations based in Georgia. "Boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with free and fair elections. Are you listening Coke, Delta, and all?"

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), meanwhile, suggested they'll seek payback by working to end MLB's antitrust exemptions, which have been in place since a 1922 Supreme Court decision.

National Review's Michael Brendan Dougherty, however, called such an effort "fake," arguing that "destroying MLB" is not within the senators' power. Tim O'Donnell

March 27, 2021

Gabriel Sterling, a Republican election official in Georgia, made a name for himself late last year when he defended the integrity of his state's presidential vote and frequently debunked former President Donald Trump's claims of fraud. Now, though, he's defending a controversial new state voting law signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) last week that critics say will particularly affect voters of color.

In an interview with MSNBC's Joshua Johnson on Friday night, Sterling did not appear to agree with his fellow Georgia Republicans, including Kemp, who argued that reforms were necessary after the 2020 election, even though there's no evidence of widespread fraud despite multiple recounts and an audit of ballot signatures. "Politicians gonna politic," but that doesn't mean there aren't "good things" in the law, he said, praising the switch from signature verification to identification number verification, in particular.

"Nothing in this bill suppresses anyone's vote," Sterling wrote on Twitter later. "Those saying so are just stirring the pot and raising money. The claim of voter suppression has the same level of truth as the claims of voter fraud in the last election."

The Week's Bonnie Krisitian writes that there are indeed "some common sense reforms" in the bill, as Sterling argues, but other measures, like criminalizing both photographing your own ballot and giving people food and water while they wait in line to vote or reducing the number of absentee ballot boxes available and limiting the time someone can request an absentee ballot, are "blatantly restrictive." Read more at The Week. Tim O'Donnell

March 26, 2021

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law a new measure to restrict voting access in the state, shortly after the Republican-led legislature passed it along party lines. Georgia voted for President Biden in November, then elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate in a January runoff election. "After the November election last year, I knew, like so many of you, that significant reforms to our state elections were needed," Kemp said. The Atlantic's Adam Serwer had an alternate explanation.

The new law makes it harder to request and drop off absentee ballots, changes early voting hours, replaces the elected secretary of state as head of the state election board with an appointee of the legislature, and gives that board the power to remove and replace county election officials. "That provision is widely seen as something that could be used to target Fulton County, a Democratic stronghold covering most of Atlanta," The Associated Press reports. The law also "bars outside groups from handing out food or water to people in line to vote."

"As always, the burden of these changes falls most heavily on voters of color — those the Voting Rights Act was designed to protect," Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement.

As Kemp was signing the law behind closed doors, state Rep. Park Cannon (D) was arrested by Capitol police for knocking. Cannon, a Black woman who represents Atlanta, was charged with felony obstruction of law enforcement and disrupting a session of the General Assembly. She faces 1 to 5 years in prison if convicted, AP reports.

Cannon "was advised that she was disturbing what was going on inside and if she did not stop, she would be placed under arrest," George State Police spokesman Lt. W. Mark Riley said. "Rep. Cannon refused to stop knocking on the door."

Tamara Stevens, an activist who was with Cannon, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Cannon was not being disruptive or disrespectful. "She knew he was signing a bill that would affect all Georgians — why would he hide behind closed doors?" Stevens said. "This isn't a monarchy." Peter Weber

March 25, 2021

Georgia's state legislature on Thursday passed a new Republican-sponsored bill that restricts voting by mail and reforms elections in several ways in response to the 2020 elections, reports The Associated Press.

President Biden had sharp criticism for bills like these earlier on Thursday during his first press conference. Asked about a Democratic voting rights bill that would overhaul federal election laws and make it easier for more people to vote, Biden expressed worry that state-level voting restriction bills in Republican legislatures could deepen voter suppression in "despicable" ways.

"What I'm worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It's sick," he said. "Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote? Deciding that you're going to end voting at 5:00 when working people are just getting off work? Deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances? ... The Republican voters I know find this despicable."

Georgia's legislation is part of a larger "Republican war on voting," The New Yorker says, outlining the 253 restrictive bills under consideration in 43 states this year, and noting that Arizona and Georgia are two of the states with the largest number of vote-limiting bills. Georgia's new law will require a photo ID to vote absentee by mail, cut the time period voters have to request an absentee ballot and limit where ballot drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed, AP reports.

Georgia's Gov. Brian Kemp (R) took issue with Biden's "un-American" comment after the press conference, and argued Biden must simply not fully understand Georgia's voting bill. Kemp is expected to sign the newly passed bill into law shortly. Summer Meza

March 18, 2021

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) delivered his first floor speech on Wednesday, condemning Republican attempts across the country to make it harder for people to vote.

"We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights and voter access unlike anything we have seen since the Jim Crow era," Warnock, Georgia's first Black senator, said. "One person, one vote is being threatened right now. Politicians in my home state and all across America, in their craven lust for power, have launched a full-fledged assault on voting rights ... [and on] democracy itself."

Former President Donald Trump lost the November presidential election — both the Electoral College and the popular vote — and falsely claimed that the system was "rigged." Despite there being no evidence of meaningful voter fraud, Republican state lawmakers have picked up this narrative, claiming that changes are necessary for transparency and to ensure fair elections.

Georgia had record turnout in November, when the state went to President Biden, and in January, when Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) won their runoff elections, giving Democrats control of the Senate. Earlier this month, lawmakers in the Republican-led Georgia state Senate and House both approved bills that would limit early voting days and absentee voting, and on Wednesday, work began on a measure that would give the state sweeping authority over local election officials, add voter ID requirements for absentee voting, and limit early voting on weekends.

Warnock is the lead sponsor of the Senate's For the People Act, which could override such restrictive state measures. The House's version of the bill passed along party lines last month, and would make voter registration automatic, eliminate partisan gerrymandering, weaken voter ID laws, and expand early and mail-in voting.

"This issue, access to voting, and preempting politicians' efforts to restrict voting, is so fundamental to our democracy that it is too important to be held hostage by a Senate rule," Warnock said, referring to the filibuster. "Especially one historically used to restrict expansion of voting rights." Catherine Garcia

March 16, 2021

Congressional Democrats should trim their "mammoth" HR 1 voting rights bill if they want it to have even a small shot at garnering some Republican support in the Senate, Richard Hasen, the chancellor's professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, argued in an op-ed for The Washington Post on Tuesday.

The sweeping bill, which passed the Democratic-majority House last week, is all but guaranteed to fail in the upper chamber, but Hasen thinks if Democrats zeroed in on four more specific reforms, they could gain momentum.

The first element in Hasen's reimagined version of the bill is the restoration of the 1965 Voting Rights Act preclearance provision that required states with a history of discrimination in voting to get federal approval before implementing any voting rules. The Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the provision was outdated because it wasn't tied to current voting discrimination, but Hasen thinks Congress could reenact it based on a new, contemporary framework.

A more focused bill, Hasen writes, should also include requirements for states to offer online voter registration, at least two weeks of some form of early voting, and potentially even no-excuse absentee balloting.

Hasen then turned to election security, suggesting Congress could require that states use voting machines "that produce a piece of paper that can be counted in a recount" and put in place measures "to protect the integrity of voter registration databases." Those reforms could "promote public confidence" in their votes, Hasen writes.

Finally, Hasen would target gerrymandering, with Congress requiring states to employ bipartisan or nonpartisan committees to draw congressional district lines. Read the full piece at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

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