Politics

Major U.S. companies take aim at Georgia's new voting restrictions

Key Points
  • Business executives across the United States are calling out efforts to restrict voting access.
  • It comes after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law that opponents say would disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color.
  • CNBC compiled a list of corporate responses to the bill.
VIDEO10:3110:31
'The right to vote is fundamental:' Black business leaders urge corporate response to voting laws

Business executives across the United States are calling out efforts to restrict voting access after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law that opponents say would disproportionately disenfranchise people of color.

Among the overhaul of state elections, the bill includes a restriction on drop boxes, makes it a crime to provide food or water to voters lined up outside polling stations, requires mandatory proof of identity for absentee voting and creates greater legislative control over how elections are run.

The bill is one of many Republican-backed election efforts introduced across the U.S. after former President Donald Trump and other GOP members falsely claimed that last year's election defeat was due to fraud. Supporters say the law was needed to restore confidence in Georgia's elections.

For Georgia, it comes after historic turnout in the state's election, particularly among Black voters and voters of color, in the November general election and the January runoff that saw two Democrats defeat incumbent Republican senators.

Civil rights groups, corporate leaders and Democratic officials are denouncing the law.

CNBC compiled a list of corporate responses to the bill:

  • Global asset manager BlackRock issued a statement Wednesday on LinkedIn.
    "Equal access to voting is the very foundation of American democracy. While BlackRock appreciates the importance of maintaining election integrity and transparency, these should not be used to restrict equal access to the polls. BlackRock is concerned about efforts that could limit access to the ballot for anyone. Voting should be easy and accessible for ALL eligible voters. Voting is not just a right, but a vital component of civil activity. We should encourage all eligible voters to play this essential role in our democracy," CEO Larry Fink wrote.
  • Coca-Cola executive Alfredo Rivera said in a statement the company, which is headquartered in Georgia, is disappointed by the law. "As soon as Georgia's legislature convened this year, our company joined with other Georgia businesses to share our core principles: We opposed measures that would seek to diminish or restrict voter access and we advocated for broad access, voter convenience, election integrity and political neutrality. Anything that inhibits these principles can lead to voter suppression. We took these steps because they align to our Purpose and the conscience we follow," he said.
  • Georgia-based Delta airlines said in a memo to employees that the "final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta's values." "After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it's evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong," CEO Ed Bastian said.
  • Pharmaceutical giant Merck said Wednesday that the company stands "strong on our core values including our commitment to social justice and the right of people to fully and freely participate in electoral processes." "There is no more fundamental right than the right to vote. Democracy rests on ensuring that every eligible voter has an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot, free from restrictions that have a discriminatory impact. We all have an obligation to stand up against racism and other forms of discrimination whenever we see them," the company added.
  • Porsche's North American operations, headquartered in Georgia, said that "equal access to the polls for every voter is core to a democracy." "As an Atlanta-based business, Porsche Cars North America (PCNA) supported the work of the Metro Atlanta Chamber with members of the Georgia General Assembly to maximize voter participation and ensure election integrity. We understand the legislative outcome remains subject to debate and hope a resolution can be found between all sides that encourages and enables every eligible vote," the company said.
  • Georgia-based UPS said this week the company supports the ability and facilitation of all eligible voters to exercise their right to vote. "Like other businesses in the community, we actively engaged with political leaders in both parties and other stakeholders to advocate for more equitable access to the polls and for integrity in the election process across the state. We echo the statement by the Metro Atlanta Chamber and stand ready to continue to help in ensuring every Georgia voter has the ability to vote," the company said.
  • Mercedes-Benz said that it "stands against efforts which discourage eligible voters to participate in this vital process."
  • In a blog post, Microsoft President Brad Smith noted the company expressed concern about the law prior to its passage and laid out its opposition in further detail, such as narrowing the window of time voters can request an absentee ballot. "We recognize that some recent criticisms of Georgia's legislation have proven inaccurate. But already, it's clear to us that the new law contains important provisions that needlessly and unfairly make it more difficult for people to vote," Smith wrote. "This new law falls short of the mark, and we should work together to press the Georgia legislature to change it," he added.
  • Brian Moynihan, chairman and CEO of Bank of America, told CNBC in a statement that ensuring equal voting access is aligned with the company's investments in reducing racial inequality and increasing economic opportunity. "The right to vote – and the vital work that must be done to protect access to that right – is a fundamental principle in the United States," he said. "Our history in fact is punctuated by the moments when we expanded that right to those to whom it had been denied too long. We must continue to right the wrongs of our past, and stand united in our advocacy for equal voting rights for all."  
  • Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins shared his concern for the new law in a tweet. "Our vote is our voice, and everyone deserves the opportunity to be heard. Governments should be working to make it easier to vote, not harder. Ensuring equal #VotingRights isn't a political issue, it's an issue of right and wrong," he said.
  • Home Depot, which is headquartered in Georgia, said that it will work to ensure its workers across the country have the resources and information to vote. "We believe that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure and support broad voter participation."
  • JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said in a statement that "voting is fundamental to the health and future of our democracy," calling out restrictive election laws. "JPMorgan Chase employees span the United States and as state capitals debate election laws, we believe voting must be accessible and equitable. We regularly encourage our employees to exercise their fundamental right to vote, and we stand against efforts that may prevent them from being able to do so. We are a stronger country when every citizen has a voice and a vote," the company said. CNN first reported on the statement.
  • Citigroup said it strongly opposes "efforts to undermine the ability of Americans to avail themselves of this fundamental right."
  • In a LinkedIn post, American Express CEO Steve Squeri complimented the new effort co-led by the company's former chairman and chief executive, Ken Chenault, to spur corporate America stand up for voting rights. "As a company and leadership team, we support this message and stand against any efforts to suppress voting which is a fundamental right that belongs to all Americans," Squeri wrote.
  • Facebook said that the company supports "making voting as accessible and broad-based as possible" and that it opposes "efforts to make it harder for people to vote."
  • ViacomCBS said it believes "in the importance of all Americans having an equal right to vote and oppose the recent Georgia voting rights law or any effort that impedes the ability to exercise this vital constitutional right. Increasing voter access and civic engagement is one of ViacomCBS' core social impact pillars and we will continue to educate the public on the importance of an open and fair voting system through our programming and extensive partnerships with grassroots organizations that promote and increase participation in elections."

In a statement Wednesday to CNBC, Kemp defended the law and specifically took aim at Delta's chief executive. 

"Today's statement by Delta CEO Ed Bastian stands in stark contrast to our conversations with the company, ignores the content of the new law and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists," the Republican governor said. 

"Mr. Bastian should compare voting laws in Georgia — which include no-excuse absentee balloting, online voter registration, 17 days of early voting with an additional two optional Sundays, and automatic voter registration when obtaining a driver's license — with other states Delta Airlines operates in," he added.

Kemp doubled down on that argument in an interview later Wednesday on CNBC's "Closing Bell," saying he was "glad to deal with" the wave of corporate criticism. He also pointed to measures of the bill that expand ballot access, contending that in more than 130 of Georgia's 159 counties early voting hours will be lengthened thanks to the legislation.

"If [executives] want to have a debate about the merits and the facts of the bill, then we should do that," Kemp said.

CNBC's Frank Holland, Mike Wayland, Phil LeBeau, Courtney Reagan, Sara Eisen, Amelia Lucas, Steve Desaulniers, Hannah Miao and Leslie Picker contributed to this report.

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Georgia Gov. Kemp responds to backlash against its new voting restrictions