SALT LAKE CITY — Members of Utah's all-Republican congressional delegation say large corporations, including Major League Baseball, are bowing to "misinformed" political pressure in their response to Georgia's controversial new voting laws.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola Co. are among dozens of companies condemning the legislation that critics say will restrict voter access and disproportionately affects people of color. Baseball moved its All-Star Game in July from Atlanta to Denver in response to the law.
Utah GOP Reps. Chris Stewart and Blake Moore issued a joint statement Tuesday, saying they are "disappointed in the large corporations that have bent to misinformed political pressure over Georgia's recent voting law. We believe the statements and decisions made by several corporations were based on a fictitious narrative, not facts."
The two congressmen echoed concerns Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., outlined in a letter to Delta Air Lines, and say they agree that critics of the voting law are unable to credibly and accurately point to aspects of the bill that hinder Georgians' voting rights.
Like other states, Georgia faced major voting challenges due to the pandemic and increased voter turnout during last November's election, and has taken necessary actions to secure election integrity, Stewart and Moore said.
"Companies can take political stances under social pressure, but we strongly encourage them to ensure their positions are truthful and thoughtful," they said.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, criticized the media for perpetuating a false narrative about the law.
The media had a responsibility to go behind the political rhetoric about the Georgia voting law and provide analysis & truth. Instead, most spread partisan disinformation and inflamed passions & division, further blurring the line between social media & a responsible free press.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) April 5, 2021
Democrats have condemned the Georgia law as voter suppression, and President Joe Biden has called it "Jim Crow in the 21st century."
The legislation, which was signed last week by GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, requires a qualifying form of identification to vote by mail, empowers the state legislature to play a larger role in election administration, limits the use of ballot drop boxes, shortens the runoff period to four weeks and makes it a crime to give voters food and water as they wait in line.
"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," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a recent statement.
In his letter, Ferguson writes that Bastian is either misinformed or uninformed about what the law accomplishes.
Voters will be able to vote by absentee ballot with no excuse, unlike in New York where Delta has invested billions of dollars in airport infrastructure upgrades, he wrote. Early voting days are increased to include two mandatory Saturdays instead of one and the option of two Sundays for all localities, unlike Delaware where there are zero mandated days of early voting, he wrote.
"People with hidden agendas suggesting these reforms are targeted to suppress the votes of African Americans so Republicans can win elections do so incorrectly and irresponsibly," he wrote.
Also, Ferguson said drinking water is not banned in voter lines as has been reported, but can't be distributed at the polls by groups advocating for votes.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred held conversations last week with teams, former and current players, the Players Association and the Players Alliance among others to listen to their views.
"I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB Draft," he said in a statement last Friday. "Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box."
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, questioned why baseball continues to have antitrust immunity.
Why does @MLB still have antitrust immunity? It's time for the federal government to stop granting special privileges to specific, favored corporations—especially those that punish their political opponents. https://t.co/k3GIZuGYHB— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) April 2, 2021
Lee also called corporate criticism of the law a "wildly partisan" and an "unseemly and inappropriate" intrusion.
"I can't fathom a legitimate, valid basis for Coca-Cola, for Delta or any of these companies to come out and say 'You can't do this,'" he said on KNRS radio's "Rod Arquette Show."
"This is really, really offensive, and I think they should both issue an apology to the voters of Georgia," Lee said.