Republican lawmakers advanced a bill last week in the state Senate that would repeal no-excuse absentee voting, and in the House that would limit the hours for early voting and restrict ballot drop boxes.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce issued a statement on Friday, saying that the right to vote is one of the most sacred rights of a US citizen. “By upholding the American ideal of free and fair elections, we demonstrate our commitment to protect the votes and rights of all Georgians and the growth of free enterprise. In 2020, Georgia voting laws were in line with 33 other states for absentee, early, and day-of voting,” it added.
Representatives from Coca-Cola and Home Depot told The Washington Post that the companies are aligned with the Chamber’s statement. Coca-Cola separately told CNN that voting is “a foundational right” in the US and that the company will “continue to work to advance voting rights and access.”
The voting restriction bills come after a violent mob stormed the US Capitol on 6 January following former president Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. Republicans claim changes to voting are required for “election integrity.”
Civil rights groups claim Black voters — who make up 30 per cent of the state’s electorate — would be disproportionately affected by the proposed changes. Black voters and voters of colour were crucial in helping president Joe Biden win the November election and two Democratic senators in a January run-off in Georgia.
The organisations say the legislation will possibly curb turnout from Democratic Black voters.
The bills HB 531 and SB 241 are part of nationwide efforts by Republicans to restrict voting.
Voting rights groups have been putting pressure on large Georgia corporations, like Coca-Cola, to speak out against the proposed voting restrictions. They put up billboards and took out full-page ads to urge companies to “stand up for Georgia.”