Leadership

Associations Speak Out for Voting Rights, Access on Heels of Georgia Law

By / Apr 8, 2021 (LPETTET/E+/Getty Images Plus)

A new Georgia law that many contend is aimed at suppressing voters, as well as concern over similar legislation in other states, has caused many organizations to speak out. Spanning industries, these groups say laws should encourage voting, not enact barriers to it.

After Georgia signed the Election Integrity Act of 2021 into law in March, there was a spate of public outcry that it restricts voter access and disproportionately affects people of color. Some of the law’s provisions drawing attention include those that impose restrictions on ballot drop boxes, ban mobile voting units, criminalize giving food or water to those waiting in line to vote, and give the legislature more power over local election boards.

A group of 72 CEOs and the Black Economic Alliance published an open letter in The New York Times calling the Georgia law “both undemocratic and un-American.”

“We cannot sit silently in the face of this gathering threat to our nation’s democratic values and allow the fundamental right of Americans, to cast their votes for whomever they choose, to be trampled upon yet again,” stated the CEOs.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Georgia, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and Southern Poverty Law Center all criticized the law and sued the state over it as well. The NAACP LDF called the law “indefensible as anything other than voter suppression.”

Professional sports groups also spoke against the law. The Major League Baseball Players Association sparked talks about moving the All Star game from Georgia, a move MLB followed through with. Meanwhile, the WNBA Players Association called the Georgia law a “direct attack on the historic turnout and participation by voters during the November and January elections … designed to target voters and suppress democracy.”

In addition, the passage of the Georgia law signaled a greater concern that lawmakers in other states might try to pass similar legislation. Because of this, several organizations have come out against laws that would hamper voters’ access to the polls.

“Unnecessary restrictions on the right to vote strike at the heart of representative government. Business Roundtable members believe state laws must safeguard and guarantee the right to vote,” said Business Roundtable in a statement.

The Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan business coalition, issued a statement decrying laws that seek to suppress voting. “There are hundreds of bills threatening to make voting more difficult in dozens of states nationwide,” the organization said. “We call on elected leaders in every state capitol and in Congress to work across the aisle and ensure that every eligible American has the freedom to easily cast their ballot and participate fully in our democracy.”

Last week, ASAE also released a statement saying that lawmakers have a responsibility to preserve access to the ballot box alongside election integrity.

“Legislative reforms that disproportionately disenfranchise communities of color are damaging to the ideals we uphold,” said ASAE. “Holding free and fair elections means removing unnecessary barriers for eligible, law-abiding voters wishing to exercise their civic duty and ensuring that elected representatives derive their authority from the will of the electorate.”

While most organizations spoke against the law, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce on March 25 released a statement saying the law “historically broadens access to the ballot box.” However, GCC issued an additional statement on April 1 saying it was working “to provide accurate information” on the law.

Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is an associate editor at Associations Now. She covers money and business. Email her with story ideas or news tips. More »

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