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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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If Corporations Are ‘People,’ They Just Might Have An Opinion

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

That Pepsi bottle on the counter looks so out of place. My husband has always been a Diet Coke man. It's a matter of principle, he tells me, even as he admits he prefers "The Real Thing." Coca-Cola's statement disapproving of Georgia's new voting restrictions was too little, too late, and that's that, he says. All of that puts the Atlanta-based soft drink giant in a bind, since even its belated critical stand was too much for backers of the bill, who are also banishing Coke from their own fridges, they say.

What's a company to do?

I can't feel too sorry for Coca-Cola, Delta, and the rest, though, since they've been playing the political game forever while pretending to be above it all. And I have to stifle a laugh at the Republican politicians who are admonishing corporations and sports leagues now that the bills the GOP instigated aren't getting a pass. These are the same pols who eagerly accepted campaign donations and good PR in days past.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is astute enough to recognize why his furrowed brow and outraged words are landing with a thud. It's why his story is constantly changing. He told companies to stay out of politics, was called on it, then said he meant to only offer advice that business leaders read the fine print before opening their mouths and closing their pocketbooks.

Carefully studying the legislation would be more than I'd wager Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp did, judging by the speed with which he signed the 98-page, GOP-led monster, after it raced through the state legislature, though I'm sure he was briefed on its intent. However, the arrest of duly elected Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon after she knocked on Kemp's door to witness the signing seemed to happen in excruciating slow motion.

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Kemp's expressions of concern for Black-owned businesses hurt by Major League Baseball moving its All-Star Game from Georgia, after he prevented Cannon from witnessing the signing of a bill that would affect so many of her constituents, earns him a spot right alongside McConnell in the hypocrites' hall of fame.

Many Georgia Democratic politicians and activists, such as Stacey Abrams, Kemp's past and maybe future opponent, have reminded those who would boycott the state about the workers who would pay a price. But the blame for the punitive actions clearly lies at the feet of the lawmakers who rushed to fix an election system that was not broken — unless broken is defined as losing presidential and senatorial contests.

Devil's In The Details

Apparently, more and more companies are taking Kemp's advice to become informed about not only Georgia's bill but also voting legislation that Republican-controlled legislatures are rushing to pass across the country. The New York Times provided a handy deep dive into the Georgia law. Here are some lowlights: Voters will have less time to request absentee ballots; drop boxes still exist, but barely; if election problems arise, it will be more difficult to extend voting hours; and so much more.

What many find most disturbing in that and other bills are new rules that would give legislatures the right to overrule the will of voters. For instance, in Georgia, the GOP-led legislature is now empowered to suspend county election officials. Isn't that what Donald Trump dictated in his threatening calls to state officials?

How widespread is the threat to democracy? The Brennan Center for Justice estimated that, as of late March, legislators had introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states.

I, for one, would be happy to never hear the word "cancel" again, now that it's used as a mantra from the folks who want to cancel the will of the voters who favored Joe Biden. Did they honestly expect American citizens (many of whom work for or patronize those now-vocal corporations) to take it? After all the corporate statements last summer supporting equity and racial justice after George Floyd's deadly interaction with law enforcement, it was inevitable that demands to back up those words with action would follow.

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Good For Business?

Recently, more than 100 chief executives and corporate leaders met virtually to discuss taking action to oppose the voting bills, including withholding investments from states that pass such measures and donations from politicians who support them. Get McConnell the smelling salts!

That's a little surprising since the usual corporate comfort zone is taking the tax breaks and hiring lots of lobbyists. So a certain amount of cynicism is allowed. Paying attention now must be good for business, or CEOs wouldn't be considering it. You also have to credit the 72 African American executives who signed a letter criticizing business as usual. Two of them — Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck — reportedly helped lead the meeting.

In Michigan, leaders of Ford and General Motors joined other businesses based there to voice their opposition to GOP-sponsored election bills in that state and around the country. And more than a dozen top law firms have committed to forming what amounts to legal "SWAT teams" to fight the laws.

Remember when McConnell celebrated the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling that companies could finance election spending? "An important step" in restoring their First Amendment rights, he said. Mitt Romney famously said: "Corporations are people."

Well, people are going to have an opinion and perhaps, when prodded, a conscience. From now on, Georgia and states with laws on deck (a baseball reference in memory of a missed All-Star opportunity) have to decide if corporations are naughty children to be scolded and condescended to, or not.

For those without Fortune 500 bona fides, and only their vote as voice, why wouldn't that vote be protected as precious? Which brings me back to my husband, who reminds me, only half-jokingly, that not only is he doing his part, he's also in good company. Will Smith has decided that his next project is canceling plans to film in Georgia because of the state's freshly minted voting restrictions.

Bad boys, indeed.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Sorry, Wingnuts: You Don't Get To 'Cancel' Baseball This Year

Barring natural disasters or unforeseen health crises, chances are I'll watch around 150 Red Sox games during the 2021 season. Along with parts of other contests as the pennant races advance. And would have done, it's important to emphasize, whether deposed strongman Donald J. Trump likes it or not.

Boycott baseball? I literally can't remember not being a baseball fan. Home movies exist of me imitating the home run trot of Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman Howie Schultz, whom I've otherwise forgotten. One of my epic childhood memories is walking up a darkened stadium ramp at New York's Polo Grounds holding my father's hand into the astonishing green of the playing field and the actual, physical presence of Willie Mays—a mythic figure in my boyish imagination.

As for the All-Star game, I normally take a pass for the same reason I skip Spring training games. They're a relic of the radio era, when American League fans got to see National League standouts only at All-Star time. Apart from the honor, most players would rather have the day off. They're strictly exhibitions, not real contests.

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Selfishly, I'd have preferred that Major League Baseball avoid political controversy altogether. To me, the game's a refuge, a few blessed hours when the daily ruck and moil of politics simply doesn't exist. But that could be my white privilege talking, to employ a phrase that also makes my feet itch.

Problem is, certain realities can't be avoided.

You can tell by the blundering, characteristically ungrammatical way former Boss Trump jumped into the controversy over Major League Baseball's pulling the 2021 All-Star game out of Atlanta to protest Georgia's new voting law, hyperbolically characterized by Joe Biden as "Jim Crow on steroids."

Continuing to whine about the 2021 presidential election that he lost by seven million votes, Trump complained, "For years the Radical Left Democrats have played dirty by boycotting products when anything from that company is done or stated in any way that offends them. Now they are going big time with WOKE CANCEL CULTURE and our sacred elections."

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He produced a list of major corporations including Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines JPMorgan Chase, ViacomCBS, Citigroup, and Merck and demanded his supporters boycott their products.

'We can play the game better than them," Trump boasted. "The Radical Left will destroy our Country if we let them. We will not become a Socialist Nation." Then came the punchline: "Happy Easter!"

Last Easter, it will be recalled, Trump was doing PR for COVID-19, urging parishioners to crowd into churches in defiance of social-distancing.

As usual, this is upside-down. It's mainly the political right in the United States that has long practiced shunning those with whom they disagree. Think Dixie Chicks. Think Colin Kaepernick.

Even French fries became "Freedom Fries" after France's UN Ambassador warned President George W. Bush against the folly of invading Iraq. (Months later, a friend sent me a photo documenting a cynical joke I'd made: a vending machine in an Arkansas truck stop offering 50-cent "Freedom Ticklers.")

So don't "Cancel Culture" me; Republicans invented it.

As for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's phony victimization, there was nothing subtle about the staged iconography of his signing ceremony. Seven middle-aged white men posing in front of an idealized painting of a pre-Civil War plantation. The only thing missing was a Rebel flag.

Arresting a Black woman legislator for having the temerity to knock on the office door was an added touch.

Kemp, see, had incurred Trumpist wrath by defending the integrity of Georgia's presidential vote and its subsequent Senate runoffs—all narrowly won by Democrats. The purpose of the new law is to cover his political butt by making it marginally harder to vote, thereby suppressing Black turnout.

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What other reason could there be for reducing the number of electoral drop boxes in Metro Atlanta from 94 to 23, and moving them inside government buildings shuttered after normal working hours?

For making it much harder to vote absentee?

For giving a legislative committee power to move precincts around and make it difficult for voters who show up at the wrong place to file provisional ballots?

For making it illegal to give water to voters waiting in long lines? As if Black voters don't cherish their hard-won right to vote and would give up and go home.

Yes, the amazing Stacey Abrams can probably overcome such cynical ploys all over again. So just in case, the new law takes election supervision away from honorable Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and gives it to a GOP-dominated legislative committee that is also empowered—get this—to remove county election officials for replacements of their own choosing.

Jim Crow? Not really. This is basically election reform, Kremlin-style.

Meanwhile, play ball! Because if Trump is fighting MLB and Coca-Cola, much less Citigroup and CBS, then Trump is losing.

All over again.

As Delta And Coke Officials Protest, Kemp Lies About New Election Law

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Following days of backlash, Republican officials are lying about what Georgia's recently passed voter suppression law will actually do, in an apparent effort to make it seem less harsh and discriminatory.

The attempt to sugarcoat the law comes as major companies, responsible for billions of dollars of Georgia's economy, are coming out against it.

Delta Air Lines, the No. 1 private employer of Georgians, came out with a statement on Wednesday calling the Georgia law "unacceptable" and built on a "lie" that there was voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey went on CNBC to also call the law "unacceptable" and a "step backwards" later in the day.

"This legislation is wrong and needs to be remedied, and we will continue to advocate for it both in private and in now even more clearly in public," Quincey said.

Like Delta, Coca-Cola is also headquartered in Georgia and employs thousands of people in the state.

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As the backlash mounts, Republicans, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the voter suppression measure into law last week, are lying about what the legislation does.

In response to Delta's statement, Kemp wrote a statement saying, "Throughout the legislative process, we spoke directly with Delta representatives numerous times. ... At no point did Delta share any opposition to expanding early voting, strengthening voter ID measures, increasing the use of secure drop boxes statewide, and making it easier for local election officials to administer elections — which is exactly what this bill does," according to NPR reporter Stephen Fowler.

However, the Georgia law does not expand ballot drop boxes, as Kemp said. In fact, it does the opposite in Democratic counties.

That's because while the law mandates that counties have at least one drop box, it also puts limits on how many ballot drop boxes are allowed per county — or "one drop box for every 100,000 active registered voters," according to the law.

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That would mean many Democratic-run counties that had numerous drop boxes in 2020 election would see the number of drop boxes severely cut back.

As the Savannah Morning News reported, "For Chatham County, which had a little over 208,000 registered voters in the Jan. 6 runoff, that likely means we'll have two drop boxes, down from the 10 we had during the runoff and the general election."

Chatham County voted overwhelmingly Democratic in the presidential election, with President Joe Biden beating Donald Trump there by a whopping 19 points.

Kemp also claimed the fact that the law lets the Republican-controlled State Board of Elections take over county election boards in Democratic strongholds was a move that makes it "easier for local election officials to administer elections."

Rather, voting rights experts fear that allowing Republicans to take over county election boards in Democratic areas or heavily Black cities that overwhelmingly support Democrats. Trump and other Republicans across the country sought to overturn the results in Democratic-controlled cities and counties in 2020 as they spread lies about voter fraud.

In a call in which Trump tried to coerce Georgia's Republican secretary of state to "find" just the right number of vote to declare him the winner of the state, Trump lied about fraud in Fulton County, the Democratic stronghold that includes the city of Atlanta. Biden carried Fulton County by a 46-point margin in 2020.

"I think the provision for state takeover of local election processes is a natural choice for a party whose election policy is driven by Trump's 'big lie'" Georgia Democratic state Rep. Josh McLaurin told Vox. "By centralizing control over those processes, Republicans make their own manipulation easier while also removing a principal barrier to their lies."

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Meanwhile, the chair of Heritage Action, a right-wing organization involved in pushing voter suppression laws across the country, told similar lies and half truths about what Georgia's law does, including the dropbox lie and the sugarcoated explanation of county election board takeovers.

The Georgia law is just one of hundreds of voter suppression laws state Republican lawmakers have been pushing in response to Trump's loss.

Democrats are trying to counteract it with the For the People Act, a pro-democracy bill that would make it easier to vote and prevent almost all of these laws from being enforceable.

Polls show the act is popular, with a survey from mid-March finding 83 percent of voters support the legislation. The legislation would require states to have automatic voter registration, expand access to absentee ballots, and restrict the use of voter ID for absentee voting, among other features.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Georgia's New Law Changes Voting Rules — And Perhaps Election Results

ATLANTA — With broad new voting rules now made law, elections will never be the same in Georgia. The changes will be felt by millions of voters, potentially with enough impact to alter the results of close elections in a sharply divided state. Absentee voters — there were 1.3 million in November's presidential election — will face new ID requirements to submit their driver's license or state ID number, a small step for many but a difficulty for the three percent of voters who lack that ID. To return absentee ballots, many will have to rely on the Postal Service to deliver them on time since drop boxes wi...