Black Leaders Say Big Georgia Companies Need To 'Speak Out Nationally' On Voter Law
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Talks continue in Atlanta today between Black religious leaders and several major companies that call Georgia home. Those leaders are encouraging a boycott starting tomorrow unless the companies come out more forcefully against new laws that place restrictions on how and when many Georgians can vote. Emil Moffatt of member station WABE reports.
EMIL MOFFATT, BYLINE: Georgia State Representative Teri Anulewicz, a Democrat, voted against Senate Bill 202. She objected not only to its contents but the way she says Republicans pushed it through.
TERI ANULEWICZ: When I say push it through, I mean they went with the ramrod, right? This was not deliberative democracy that we saw in action.
MOFFATT: Among her complaints about the law is how it reduces the number and availability of ballot drop boxes in larger counties like hers. She says that'll make it harder for voters with young children and those who work unusual hours to drop off their ballots. Anulewicz's district is in Cobb County, which, like the state, went for Joe Biden last year. It's also where the Atlanta Braves play.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: Chipper Jones had a single his first time up.
MOFFATT: It was the year 2000, the last time Major League Baseball hosted the All-Star Game in Georgia.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: Baldwin's 2-0 pitch.
(SOUNDBITE OF BASEBALL BAT STRIKING)
UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: Hit in the air toward the gap in left center field and carrying pretty well. And this ball is gone.
MOFFATT: That won't be the case this year as the result of the new law. Anulewicz says hotels, restaurants and other businesses surrounding the ballpark had been looking forward to July's game.
ANULEWICZ: We're not back economically, and we won't be back economically for quite a while. And the All-Star Game, I think, was going to be a real injection of energy and tourism and visitors to Cobb County and to metro Atlanta.
MOFFATT: Major League Baseball's decision to move the All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado could just be the first domino to fall. Bishop Reginald Jackson of Georgia's AME Church has been leading the charge to pressure Georgia-based companies like Coca-Cola, Delta and The Home Depot to issue more than just a statement.
REGINALD JACKSON: They have to speak out nationally and publicly in opposition to these bills. And more than that, they have to use their lobbyists and their money to seek to influence these legislators.
MOFFATT: Jackson has called on a boycott to start tomorrow. Ray Hill, a business professor at Emory University in Atlanta, says a boycott is not likely to put a dent in these companies' bottom lines, but it's also something they can't afford to ignore.
RAY HILL: So it's a very difficult thing for a CEO, I'd say. You concentrate. You're working on behalf of the shareholders, but you have to recognize that your company does not exist in a vacuum. And the interests of the shareholders in the long run are served by taking into account that political and social context.
MOFFATT: The conversation with Professor Hill was briefly interrupted when our Zoom connection dropped. But talking with him over the phone a short time later, he says the Atlanta area will take a financial hit as the result of losing the All-Star Game. But he doesn't think it'll amount to the $100 million total being estimated by county leaders.
HILL: It's going to have, I think, a significant impact. It's probably going to affect their tax revenues - very, very hard to figure out, you know, what the economic impact is on the citizens of Cobb County.
MOFFATT: In addition to the economic implications, Georgia's new voting laws are also facing more legal scrutiny this week. The group Asian Americans Advancing Justice has filed a lawsuit over the legislation, the fourth of its kind. And the solicitor general in suburban Gwinnett County says he won't prosecute anyone arrested for passing out food or water to voters waiting in line.
For NPR News, I'm Emil Moffatt in Atlanta.
(SOUNDBITE OF TIMECOP1983 SONG, "BACK TO YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.