The decision from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred came eight days after Kemp signed the sweeping elections overhaul into law. The changes were strongly opposed by Georgia Democrats and voting rights activists, and Manfred remarked that MLB “opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”
Speaking in front of a group of largely unmasked supporters crowded together inside the state Capitol, Kemp said, “In the middle of a pandemic, Major League Baseball put the wishes of Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden ahead of the economic well-being of hard-working Georgians.”
Shortly after Kemp signed the legislation into law, the president characterized it as “a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience.” Abrams, the voting rights activist and former gubernatorial candidate, has also strongly criticized the changes. On Saturday, Kemp accused Biden and Abrams of lying to the American people about Georgia’s new law.
In a statement released the day before Kemp’s press conference, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., said, “The Governor and the legislature are deliberately making it harder for Black voters to vote. They know it. Everybody knows it and this egregious and immoral assault on voting rights has also put our state’s economy at grave risk.”
Kemp warned that the “cancel culture” and partisan activists would target other events and businesses.
“They don’t care about jobs,” he said. “They don’t care about our communities and they certainly don’t care about access to the ballot box.”
Kemp said if MLB truly cared about voting rights it would have announced it was moving its headquarters out of New York, arguing that Georgia’s elections law is more favorable to voters than New York’s.
While critics say the changes are designed to suppress turnout from voters of color, Kemp and other supporters say the voting overhaul will increase confidence in Georgia’s voting system.
The new law covers voting access, ballot counting, election oversight and runoffs.
Absentee voters will be required to submit driver’s license numbers or other documentation under a new process for checking their identity, replacing signature matching processes. The new law also sets an earlier deadline for requesting absentee ballots.
Runoffs will now happen four weeks after a general election instead of nine weeks later. There will be as little as one week of early voting before runoffs, down from the current three-week early voting period.
Weekend voting before general elections will be expanded, with mandatory voting hours on two Saturdays statewide. Counties will retain the option to allow early voting on two Sundays.
The changes also add limits on drop boxes — they must be located inside early voting locations and only available during voting hours — and allow state takeovers of local election boards. However, Kemp pointed out that for the first time under the new law, the state requires each county to have at least one drop box.
Attorney General Chris Carr, who also appeared at Saturday’s press conference, said reading the bill reveals a different set of facts than what Abrams presents in media appearances. “When we defend this bill in court the ‘Stacey says’ standard will not apply,” Carr said. “It will all be about the facts and the law.”
Carr criticized those who have described the new law as a return to Jim Crow. “Anybody who actually reads this bill sees how comparing it to the Jim Crow era, one of the most tragic periods in American history where human beings were killed and truly were prevented from casting their ballot, is preposterous, irresponsible and fundamentally wrong.”
For Kemp, the attacks from Democrats over his strong support for the election law may have a silver lining: renewed support from the GOP base which soured on him during his conflicts with President Donald Trump.
Brian Robinson, a GOP strategist, predicted it could be a singular moment in the 2022 race for governor, when Kemp will seek reelection.
“The Democrats in one week have united a fractured Georgia GOP, rallied Republicans to Brian Kemp at a time when many had abandoned him and appalled the same independent voters who broke heavily toward them last year,” Robinson said.
“Stacey Abrams couldn’t have done more for Brian Kemp’s reelection hopes if she’d written a $10 million check to his super PAC.”
Georgia faces four lawsuits challenging the law, saying it would illegally suppress the votes of minorities. Influential business leaders have also spoken out against the voting changes, including Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines.
Kemp said he would not be intimated or silenced by the actions. “Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola and Delta may be scared of Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden and the left, but I am not.”
Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.