My father, a newfound citizen and immigrant from Mexico, voted for the first time this year. As the final ballots for Clayton County came in, I couldn’t believe my eyes as Georgia flipped for Joe Biden. Despite a presidential win, there was something else going on in Georgia, and it was historic. The two incumbent senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue did not reach the 50% threshold needed in the Georgia election to win. Georgia went into runoff mode as support came in from across the country to flip the senate. Working with local organizations, I began an aggressive and coordinated canvassing operation in my town that helped move my county seven points more Democratic than the general election. As I walked down the long, winding streets in my checkered vans, I knocked on every door I saw. Armed with masks, hand sanitizer and political literature, I registered dozens of voters. Due to the work of many organizations such as the New Georgia Project, Fair Fight, Poder Latinx, Black Voters Matter, Voto Latino and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, thousands of voters finally had a voice all across the state. Georgia flipped blue once again and went on to elect two Democratic senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, largely through first-time minority voters.
The Georgia GOP and its supporters don’t want Black and Brown Georgians to vote; in fact, they want to make sure they don't ever again. There is no evidence of voter fraud seriously impacting the legitimacy of this election. Despite this, the Georgia GOP uses textbook voter suppression tactics that have long disenfranchised minority communities by exploiting SCOTUS rulings. Rather than honorably admit defeat, they punish Black and Brown voters for exercising their legal right to vote. They claim that due to the massive "voter fraud" happening across the country, there has to be more restrictive policies in place that prevent it. However, the policies they are advocating for don't stop fraud at all. Specifically, House Bill 531 and Senate Bill 241 are the two significant pieces of legislation currently floating in both houses that could stop many Georgians from voting. House Bill 531 is a sixty-six page document riddled with inappropriate action in response to these senate wins. The bill exacerbates voting requirements by requiring voters requesting absentee ballots to produce ID information. In addition, it also severely limits accessibility to absentee ballot boxes by forcing them to be inside and only operating during business hours. The other bill, Senate Bill 241, does the same except it eliminates no-excuse absentee ballots completely. With many polling sites already being taken from historically marginalized communities, there is no doubt that the GOP is intentionally targeting these voters.
Despite these major issues, companies like Coca-Cola, Aflac, Delta, UPS and Home Depot have continued to support GOP controlled state houses. According to Black Voters Matter, “Coca-Cola has donated over $30,000 to politicians co-sponsoring voter suppression bills while referring to themselves as allies to the movement.” While Coca-Cola and Home-Depot have indicated their support of a statement written by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce stating “free enterprise thrives when democracy is secured,” this doesn’t address how their funding contributed to the issue in the first place. Coca-Cola actively funded thirty of the co-sponsors of this bill with thousands. Many of these co-sponsors also legitimized Trump’s claims of a stolen election, which further enabled false claims of voter fraud. Furthermore, even after being aligned with the Chamber’s statement, Home-Depot clarified that they weren’t entirely opposed to the voting restrictions. While UPS and Delta have also put out statements in support of democratic processes, how they use their funding is telling of their true feelings. These companies can claim they do not support what Stacey Abrams’ calls “ Jim Crow in a suit and tie,” but if their funding contributes to these racist policies, then they certainly do.
Across the nation, the state GOP houses are backsliding into blatant disenfranchisement. Election cycles are never over; there is always the next city, state, or national office that needs to be flipped. We can’t let the voters who just saved America once again become silenced by these racist pieces of legislation. A big issue always has a simple solution. In this case, boycotting Coca-Cola products and Home Depot and calling GA state houses is the most sensible course of action. These companies need to know that their actions are immoral. Boycotting, refusing to use their services, creates a direct action that harms their company and forces them to listen. Additionally, the Georgia NAACP, New Georgia Project, and Black Voters Matter need help to ensure that Black voters in Georgia are not forgotten. Therefore, making a donation can also help strengthen the grassroots organizations already in place. Other states such as Pennsylvania and Arizona also urgently need help with voter suppression legislation. Joining local grassroots organizations within your community, such as Fair Fight, can make a large difference.
Anthony Salgado is a Trinity first-year. His column runs on alternate Fridays.