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Activists are calling on big companies to challenge new voting laws. Here's what they're asking for.

Challenge to new Georgia voting law
Civil rights groups challenge new Georgia voting law 07:40

Just days after Coca-Cola, Delta and other major corporate names publicly denounced Georgia's controversial voting law, civil rights groups are raising the heat on big companies to help combat similar proposals across the U.S.

Activists are urging Georgia-based companies like Delta, Home Depot and UPS to stop funding the political campaigns of Republican legislators behind the state's move to restrict voting rights. They also want companies to put their brands behind publicity campaigns that openly oppose similar voter law proposals in Arizona, Florida and Texas, as well as to take a stand in favor of bills in Congress aimed at expanding access to the ballot box.

Georgia lawmakers passed a measure that requires voters to present a photo ID when voting by mail. The law also cuts the time people have to request an absentee ballot and limits where ballot drop boxes can be placed. Critics charge that such changes amount to the 2021 version of Jim Crow rules and other historical efforts to suppress the vote to gain a political advantage.

The push from activists comes in the same week as 72 Black business executives calling for companies to speak out against Georgia's voting law. In a letter addressed to corporate America, former American Express CEO Ken Chenault and other Black leaders noted that more than 40 states are considering election changes similar to Georgia. 

"What we're saying to companies is all of the words are nice, but we need you to take action," Chenault told CBS This Morning.

72 Black executives push for corporations to take stand over newly-passed voting restrictions 06:08

Coca-Cola, Delta and Home Depot have largely stayed mum on what concrete steps they favor to help repeal the Georgia voting law. UPS stopped short of saying it would halt political donations. Instead, it is offering less assertive measures, saying it plans to print absentee ballots for employees who ask, offer its employees to work as volunteers at polling sites on election days, and fund organizations that hold voter registration drives.  

Large corporations "know how to squash legislation that impacts their own company or industry," said Cliff Albright, executive director of the Georgia-based political action group Black Voters Matter. "We expect them to do the same here."

1. Do not donate

Activists said companies should immediately stop making donations to Barry Fleming and Michael Dugan, the Georgia Republicans who co-sponsored the voting changes. Doing that "doesn't mean they have to stop giving to the entire Republican Party," just those lawmakers, Albright said. 

Coca-Cola has contributed $34,750 to Fleming's and Dugan's campaigns since 2018, according to data from Popular Information, a left-leaning political newsletter. Delta has donated $41,600 in total to the lawmakers while Home Depot has kicked in $34,000 and UPS has given $34,500.

There is recent precedent for companies now embroiled in the Georgia fight for pulling back on their support for lawmakers. In January, Coca-Cola and UPS were among the many Fortune 500 companies that stopped contributing to Republicans in Washington who falsely claimed that former President Trump lost the 2020 election due to voter fraud.

Ending political donations is one of the most immediately impactful steps a company can take to sway lawmakers, said Nse Ufot, CEO of New Georgia Project, a voter rights organization. That's because Coca-Cola, UPS and the others "have the most powerful lobbyists and have the biggest influence in Georgia politics," he said.

2. Spread awareness

Albright noted that America's best-known brands have vast experience persuading Americans to buy their products, whether a plane ticket from Delta or cans of paint from Home Depot. Major advertising campaigns have helped these companies individually, but ads can also help stamp out efforts nationwide to pass voting laws similar to Georgia's, activists said. 

Texas state Senate advances controversial voting bill 08:29

Arizona and Texas could be the next states to alter voting rights, with lawmakers there considering proposals for additional ID requirements, restrictions on drop boxes and cuts to private funding for local election offices. In Arizona, SB 1713 adds the ID requirement for voting absentee. In Texas, the state senate passed SB 7 this week, a sweeping bill that would add many voting restrictions. Black Voters Matter picketed the Dallas offices of AT&T on Monday, criticizing its political donations to the leading Texas Republicans behind the voting legislation. 

Activists say it isn't enough for companies to issue tepid public statements in defense of voting rights. Instead, companies should launch television and social media ads that oppose efforts in Georgia, Arizona, Texas and other states considering voter restrictions, Albright said. 

"The same way they try to convince people to have a Coke and a smile, they need to persuade people to fight voter suppression," he said. "They can use all their skills, tools, marketing departments and their budgets."

3. Fight for federal law

As Arizona, Florida, Texas and other states mull changes to local voting rules, the federal government is also weighing an election law overhaul known as the "For the People Act." 

If passed, the act would create same-day and online voter registration nationwide. It would also require states to overhaul their registration systems. The act seeks to expand absentee voting, limit the states' ability to remove people from voter rolls, increase federal funds for election security and reform the redistricting process.

Biden slams GOP-led efforts to limit voting rights 11:53

Albright said corporate chiefs must offer to testify before federal lawmakers in favor of the bill. Creating a separate public awareness campaign for that bill also would help, he added.

Companies "need to work aggressively to call for the passage" of the For the People Act, Ufot said. 

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