Delta CEO blasts Georgia voting law, calling it “unacceptable”; Gov. Kemp responds

ATLANTA — In a memo obtained by Channel 2 Action News and ABC News, Delta CEO Ed Bastian called Georgia’s new election laws “unacceptable” and “based on a lie.”

It is the strongest statement that the Atlanta-based company has released regarding its opposition to the election overhaul. Delta’s initial response to the bill did not make a stand on the issue, but called for equal access to a fair and secure process.

[EXPLAINER: What does Georgia’s new GOP election law do?]

“Since the bill’s inception, Delta joined other major Atlanta corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties, to try and remove some of the most egregious measures from the bill. We had some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics that some had proposed. However, I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” Bastian wrote.

“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,” the CEO continued in his letter.

Channel 2 Action News reached out to the governor’s office for comment and received this statement.

“Throughout the legislative process, we spoke directly with Delta representatives numerous times. We worked alongside legislative leadership to expand voting opportunities for Georgians, while also taking steps to further secure the ballot box. At no point did Delta share any opposition to expanding early voting, strengthening voter ID measures, increasing the use of secure drop boxes statewide, and making it easier for local election officials to administer elections — which is exactly what this bill does. The last time I flew Delta, I had to present my photo ID. 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. The truth is the Election Integrity Act expands voting access and protects the sanctity and security of the ballot box. Mr. Bastian should compare voting laws in Georgia — which include no-excuse absentee balloting, online voter registration, 17 days of early voting with an additional two optional Sundays, and automatic voter registration when obtaining a driver’s license — with other states Delta Airlines operates in.”

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The memo from the Delta CEO comes as many opponents of the election overhaul are calling for a boycott of business in Georgia. Other metro corporations, including Coca-Cola and its CEO, have also come forward to say they’re opposed to the changes.

Others are also demanding that Major League Baseball move the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

Channel 2′s Justin Gray learned there is a push for action to be taken against Delta for their remarks on the final day of the 2021 legislation session Wednesday.

It is unclear if it will happen or not, but a senior aide told Gray that everything is on the table. Some Republican lawmakers are considering a last-second effort to penalize Delta through amending pending tax legislation.

“Frankly I’m getting sick and tired of these corporations that are happy to come to us to ask for fuel tax credits or subsidies to build plants and they’ll come back around and be hyper partisan,” Rep. Philip Singleton said.

Rep. Chuck Martin echoed the governor’s criticism.

“Being on the committee, I never heard from him, never heard from anybody from Delta,” he said.

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In previous years, the general assembly has targeted Delta’s fuel tax credit over political fights and that could be on the line Wednesday night.

Democrat Rep. Teri Anulewicz said it’s not a good way to govern.

“Every session or so, that issue bubbles to the surface. And I don’t think that good policy is founded upon retaliation.”

It’s not just Democrats who are opposed to retaliating. Gray spoke with several Republicans who didn’t like the idea of last-second action that hasn’t gone through the committee process.

KEMP DEFENDS SIGNING THE BILL

In an exclusive interview with Channel 2 on Tuesday, Kemp said he expected there would be calls for the boycott.

“I knew what was coming from the other side. I knew that they were going to try to do this boycott, cancel culture and everything else,” Kemp said. “And I wanted to get out in front of that and get the bill signed and let people know what was in it.”

Kemp said the new law expands weekend early voting, makes ballot drop boxes an official part of Georgia election law and replaces signature match on absentee ballots with a voter ID.

Critics, however, contend the new law is more about voter suppression than election integrity, especially the law preventing people from providing food and water to voters within 150 feet of polling places.

Earlier this week, several groups filed a 92-page federal lawsuit, asking a federal court judge to overturn the law.

“We and others quickly marched into court because we cannot let it stand. There are upcoming elections. Voters need to prepare for them and so litigation was necessary now,” said Leah Aden with the NAACP.