April 10, 2021

Corporate America: Georgia On Its Mind

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Not precisely what Ray Charles had on his mind, but apropos nonetheless.

Corporate citizens always have had a significant voice in American politics. Indeed, corporations have had a much more impactful voice than merely supporting or opposing this or that particular piece of legislation. Corporate political action committees and corporate contributions flowing to politicians ever since the Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case have generally served Republicans quite well. However, adverse and vocal corporate reaction to the sad Georgia election reform law has infuriated the once Grand Old Party. So, the sudden and swift indignation of Republican politicians and their hosanna media chorus deriding corporations that have taken a strident stand against the so-called Georgia election reform law is almost laughable.

The previous guy’s call for a boycott of those companies that have spoken out against Georgia’s Republican election reform law represents a new low in American political temperament. The so-called election reform law has been conjured to rectify a problem that never existed; “a problem” that was conceived as a political strategy long before the 2020 presidential election. That strategy has served no purpose other than to divide America further and energize an incredibly ugly movement, the manifestation of which was the tragic and deadly spectacle that unfolded on January 6th, primarily promoted and encouraged by the previous guy.

The previous guy and the political party still in thrall to him are masters of plausible deniability. They have convinced themselves, and a surprising number of others, that the so-called Georgia election reform law is designed to encourage legal voting and discourage illegal voting, even though no meaningful illegal voting occurred in the last election. Indeed, the drafters of the law threw in some shiny plausible-deniability objects that would allow them to say, “See, we’re for making it easier, not more difficult to vote.” Many talking heads on the right, and those who take their cues from them, have fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

The Georgia Republican legislators knew precisely what provisions they wanted to get rid of, and they were happy to throw in some liberalized voting provisions in order to jettison the voting issues they had come to loathe during the 2020 election contretemps engineered by the previous guy.

Don’t be fooled by the shiny objects. The new law is intended, among other affronts, to make it more difficult for an honest election overseer to do his or her job when doing that job might restrict state politicians’ partisan whims.

 For example, perhaps, the most serious objective on the Republican list of do-overs was stripping the elected Secretary of State, Republican Brad Raffensperger (or any future Secretary of State elected by the people), of election oversight responsibility as Chair of the State Election Board. The Republican General Assembly has now delegated that responsibility to someone selected by, well, themselves.  

Raffensperger, a solid and honest Republican, drew a line in the sand by refusing to bow to the demands of the previous guy who telephoned him to demand that he “find another 11,780 votes” with which to steal the election away from Joe Biden. Stripping the elected Secretary of State of that oversight responsibility was the biggy for those drafting the new Georgia election law. They were more than willing to throw in any number of shiny objects to get that done. The Republicans in the General Assembly don’t ever again want someone to have such election oversight authority who doesn’t owe their allegiance to them.

Then there was the problem of those damn, pesky drop boxes, another biggy that made it too convenient for voters to cast their ballots. So, the so-called election reform law limits the number of drop boxes to only one, either at a designated early voting site or one for every 100,000 voters in a county, whichever is smaller.

Under the new Georgia law, only people requesting mail-in ballots can receive them, whereas other states provide mail-in ballots and leave it up to the voter to determine whether to vote in person or to mail in their ballot.

Furthermore, under the new Georgia law, no mail-in ballots can be sent to voters until the last 29 days before an election. That almost cuts in half the time previously allotted for mail-in ballots to be distributed, completed, and returned. The uncertainty of timely mail delivery, especially during high mail traffic periods, makes this new restriction problematic. The time consumed for a ballot to reach a voter and the time consumed in returning the ballot through the mails could seriously limit the time a voter has to consider their voting decisions. This would be especially true when there are many offices or referenda issues to be decided.

In the last election, run-off contests were pivotal in Georgia, with voters turning out two Republicans and ushering in two Democrats. So, the General Assembly severely restricted future early voting for run-off elections from a minimum three-week period to a single Monday through Friday interval.

Then, there’s what might be called the no water for the thirsty provision. Under established Georgia law, no electioneering is allowed “within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established.” That, of course, means no literature can be handed out closer than at that point, nor can posters or placards be displayed supporting any particular candidate or any final plea to vote for this or that candidate. Fair enough.

Under the new Georgia law, however, no one can even offer a bottle of water to a voter who, perhaps, has been waiting in line for hours to vote. Under the new law, water may only be provided by the polling place’s voting authorities, but no polling place will be required to have water on hand for thirsty voters. Now, one could accept such a restriction if it simply prohibited water bottles with partisan political labels from being handed out and carried into the voting place, but simply banning water—please!

While one might feel somewhat sad for Georgia, on balance, things are looking up. In 2016, twenty-two percent of Georgia’s eligible voters were not registered. Last year, thanks mainly to Stacey Abrams’ efforts, only two percent of Georgia’s eligible voters are still not registered. Also, while much of the state is stagnating, Atlanta and its suburbs are growing, adding young vitality to the state.

I have a somewhat more nuanced view of Major League Baseball moving the All-Star game out of Atlanta. More than likely, MLB simply wanted to avoid the spectacle of having many of its all-stars boycotting the game in Atlanta, so the Commissioner pre-empted that by having the game moved elsewhere. It was an understandable and, on balance, a reasonable decision. 

So, what to make of all of this. Well, as one of Georgia’s late favorite sons still reminds us, “…Oh Georgia, no peace I find, (no peace I find)—Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.”

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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10 responses to “Corporate America: Georgia On Its Mind”

  1. sheila says:

    Great article, Hal –I’ve been wondering if you were going to broach this subject. It is hard to imagine how this voter suppression law is constitutional at its heart – and you are correct — suppression of votes within the largely Democrat African American population of Georgia, is the clear intent. Just appalling and shameful from beginning to end.

    And then, there is the not-so-small incident involving Georgia Representative Park Cannon, who was handcuffed and dragged forcibly to jail simply for knocking on the door of the chamber in which the signing of this law was taking place. How is this possible in America? It is shocking to watch the video clip, and it is mortifying that the Previous Guy has so poisoned Republican politics in our country that there is an attitude among too many of them that anything goes — even insurrection.

    But to your point about the involvement of corporations in election politics: it is not only the response of the Republican calls for a boycott that is laughable — It is the response of the corporations themselves. This is a classic case of “a day late and a dollar short. Their motivation here is clearly bottom line rather than justice. Not a one of them spoke out BEFORE this noxious law was signed – it took significant public pressure to goad them out of their complacency. Delta, famously, even did an embarrassing flip-flop, at first praising the new law before condemning it. Tragically, if these companies had used their financial leverage to lean on these legislators in the beginning, they may have been able to prevent the signing – or at least to soften the impact.

    I am hoping against hope for a happy ending, or at least, a fair ending to this tragic story. Maybe it will be the passage of HR1 which will mitigate the impact of Georgia’s soul crushing new voter law and discourage other states from following suit. It is my deep hope that Biden works across the aisle on this one, but if he can’t get the votes, well hey, it’s only our democracy that’s at stake.

  2. Chuck Anderson says:

    Hal,
    Thank you for giving the ‘previous guy’ his new moniker. I have a visceral gag response whenever I see an image of the ‘previous guy’, hears his voice or read even a few lines from his latest screed.
    Years from now & perhaps even sooner the children & grandchildren (as has already happened in the Conway family) of those who voted for and/or supported the ‘previous guy’ & his Republican minions will squirm to rationalize their support of such racists thereby receiving their well deserved punishment.

  3. Steve says:

    Talk about “rigging” elections!!!

  4. Thomasin Savaiano says:

    This lays out a very clear description of what the GA law really means in detail to the people of that state- and potentially to people in over 20+ other states who may find themselves put in similar restraint.
    An action which one has to admit becomes transparent in intent, given the fact we have just experienced the most secure election in our modern history – replete with multiple recounts and a vast array of failed law suits.
    So thank you for that.
    It also brings out the much less talked about fact that one cannot benefit from corporations – to the point of pushing the have them classified as “people” – and then hypocritically turn around and act as if they should not push back using the power you have given them. One mouth- Two Sides speaking.
    Thank you for that, as well.

    I wish there was no reason you needed to write this explanatory piece, bringing facts to light of day – but sadly, the un-American behavior (the act of reducing the ability of any American to vote fits that descriptor) of these lawmakers and their Congressional supporters has made it a necessity.

  5. Betty Wolf says:

    As a Georgia resident again, I favor this bill to eliminate fraud. It is not suppression. The distraction of the water is ridiculous. Voter ID is at issue.

    Perhaps a discussion of the disaster the current administration has caused at our southern border would be a worthy topic.

  6. BLB says:

    If only 2% of Georgia’s voters are not registered ( as you point out), then where’s the beef?? That’s a small percentage. Don’t see voter suppression there. The embarrassment of the opposition is that they assume some people don’t know how to get voter ID. Most people already have ID’s…. even the homeless in San Francisco had ID’s in the 90’s when I volunteered at the shelters. Voters just need to use them to vote.
    And about the water…. don’t we all take our own water bottle if we know we’re going to be standing in hot weather?? Geez… use some common sense!
    And in closing, the voter election reforms and codifying the law going on in most states are the result of the ambiguity created with the “Covid election rules” that were rampantly abused in many places. And the States should control these laws, not the Federal government (HR-1).
    And do we still have to read about Trump??
    As a current Texas resident again, I agree that the border disaster in relation to the current administration is a very worthy topic….probably for many months to come….

  7. Judy Allen says:

    I always appreciate your newsletter. That said a little less left of center bias would be a nice change. When folks demonstrate again Chick Filet, Hobby Lobby, etc nothing is said.,,,, but, politicians holding Corporations hostage is somehow okay?
    The issue that we’re ignoring is ” Voter ID” why would this be so onerous for our legal Citizens?
    The other is our Southern border. We have family living in fear in AZ and Texas as illegals from “who knows where” no doubt some are terrorist and continue to be welcomed, housed, etc as the freely walk thru our border . That’s the topic this administration does not want to deal with…..

  8. Michael Gong says:

    Once again, Chuck and Steve have said it better than I could say. The others? How could otherwise rational people fall for such a blatant attempt at voter suppression. The 2 percent voter registration figure is exactly why there is this desperation attempt to suppress voting by black people. Get it? Stacy Abrams scares the Klan to death, just as Obama did. If it were not for that figure they and other white.nationalists would have nothing to worry about. Voter suppression would be unnecessary.

  9. Stuart Goldfine says:

    I have a friend of 60 years living in Augusta, GA now and he says the law there is fair. No one is being denied the right to vote and the water bottle issue is just plain stupid. Next they will be giving free food from MacDonald’s or similar.

    Move on to the Mexican border crisis that Biden has created and Kamala does not want to go there. If she goes, hordes of reporters might learn the truth.

  10. TAck says:

    A fascinating and well written article as always. Thank you Hal.

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