Voting rights advocates plan economic boycott to pressure Georgia firms

Critics of Republican-backed efforts to overhaul Georgia’s voting laws launched a new phase in their efforts to derail the legislation on Thursday with plans to boycott one of Atlanta’s most famous corporations.

The leaders of the AME Sixth Episcopal District on Thursday told the AJC they will call for a statewide boycott of Coca-Cola until the Atlanta-based firm opposes measures that would impose new ID requirements for mail-in ballots, drop box rules and mandatory weekend voting hours.

Bishop Reginald Jackson said he wants to send the message that if “Coca-Cola wants Black and brown people to drink their product, then they must speak up when our rights, our lives and our very democracy as we know it is under attack.”

“We will speak with our wallets,” said Jackson, who led a noon “Souls to the Capitol” rally outside the Capitol on Thursday. “This past summer, Coke and other corporations said they needed to speak out against racism. But they’ve been mighty quiet about this.”

Among the crowd of roughly 100 was Marla Cureton, a Roswell activist who said former President Donald Trump’s election helped motivate her to get involved in local politics.

“I’m here because the work never ends,” she said. “It’s a reminder to Democrats around the country that this is going to be an ongoing fight.”

It’s part of a broader campaign to exert pressure on Georgia’s biggest businesses to intervene in the fraught political debate.

The state’s leading corporations have mostly taken a guarded approach toward the various elections proposals, using phrasing calling for “fairness” and “security” while largely shying away from outright opposition to specific provisions in the pending proposals.

Coca-Cola has come under particularly intense pressure from opponents of the measure, who earlier this month held a die-in at the company’s downtown Atlanta tourist attraction. In a statement, Coca-Cola has said it supported a “balanced approach to the elections bills that have been introduced in the Georgia Legislature this session.”

“The ultimate goal should be fair, secure elections where access to voting is broad-based and inclusive,” the company added.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber, the state’s most powerful business lobby, has taken a sharper stance by spelling out areas of focus that specifically addressed absentee voting, drop boxes, weekend voting and ID requirements.

The latest legislative proposals move away from efforts to severely limit who can vote by mail even as they pursue strict controls over other areas of ballot access.

Democrats said even though some onerous provisions have been abandoned, the proposals would still make it harder for Georgians to cast ballots. Republicans counter that they’re trying to restore confidence after a barrage of false claims of systemic voter fraud by former President Donald Trump and his allies.

The House is expected to vote on a version of elections legislation on Thursday, while a separate Senate proposal cleared a key panel this week. Lawmakers will have to negotiate final versions of bills before this year’s legislative session ends next Wednesday.