Delta CEO Ed Bastian calls Georgia voting law 'unacceptable' in U-turn, ends up irking both Dems and GOP

The corporate leaders came up with strong reactions after companies like Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola faced boycott threats


                            Delta CEO Ed Bastian calls Georgia voting law 'unacceptable' in U-turn, ends up irking both Dems and GOP
Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines (Getty Images)

Georgia was in the headlines in January over its Senate run-off elections and the controversies surrounding it. The Peach State is in the news again and the reason this time is the criticism that some of the state’s top corporate leaders have come up with against the state’s voting restrictions. But some of the corporate giants, headquartered in the state, have been criticized by both the Republican and Democratic Party over their stances on the voting reform.

Major American companies and sports teams have publicly condemned the new voting law that Georgia passed recently, almost a week after Black clergymen around the state and advocates of voting rights started slamming the corporations for their silence and even threatening to boycott them. Giants like Delta Air Lines and Coca Cola that are headquartered in Georgia, besides JP Morgan Chase have called the legislation “wrong” and “based on a lie” and are pledging action to bring change in it.

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The corporate leaders came up with their strong reactions as the companies faced boycott threats from the advocates of voting rights who feel the local corporations should have done more in opposing the legislation before it was signed by the state’s GOP Governor Brian Kemp last week. Hashtags like #BoycottDelta, #BoycottDeltaAirlines and #BoycottCocaCola flooded Twitter as the companies came under attack. Georgia overhauled its elections recently by putting restrictions on voting by email and empowering the legislature on running of elections. Under the new law, a photo ID is required when mailing an absentee ballot and requesting a ballot. It also restrains the time people have to request an absentee ballot.

But the story of Delta has not been straight.

On Wednesday, March 31, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told his employees in a memo that the law was “unacceptable” and “based on a lie” of widespread fraud in the election held last November. He said in his memo: “I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta's values. After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong.”

He added: “The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.”

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (Getty Images)

 

Georgia GOP Governor Brian Kemp hit back at Bastian saying the latter was spreading misinformation and did not recognize the positive effect the bill has on voting. “Today's statement by Delta CEO Ed Bastian stands in stark contrast to our conversations with the company, ignores the content of the new law, and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists,” he said.

Bill critics also unhappy with Delta

But Delta also ended up irking those criticizing the bill. The carrier’s initial statement on the bill was there was still “work ahead” to improve access to voting. “Over the past several weeks, Delta (DAL) engaged extensively with state elected officials in both parties to express our strong view that Georgia must have a fair and secure election process, with broad voter participation and equal access to the polls. The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process,” Delta’s initial statement said, adding: “Nonetheless, we understand concerns remain over other provisions in the legislation, and there continues to be work ahead in this important effort.”

The law’s critics soon lashed out at Delta and called for the boycott of just not Delta but also Coca-Cola and Home Depot, another Georgia-based company. It was then when Bastian came up with his statement on Wednesday to attack the law and concede that Delta had changed its initial view. Delta’s new statement came after the opponents of the bill said that the initial statement suggested that the company was supportive of the legislation. Other critics also asked why the companies waited so long to openly criticize the bill.

Georgia, a predominantly red state, saw Democrat Joe Biden winning it in the 2020 presidential election by a narrow margin (the first Dem since Bill Clinton in 1992) while the GOP lost both its Senate seats in January to lose control of the chamber.