Even though we are more than six months past the victory of President Joe Biden and almost through the first 100 days of his administration, our country still seems to be litigating it. Unfounded rumors and blatant lies about our voting process continue to be spread endlessly in our politics and are being used as justification for Republican lawmakers in dozens of states to propose laws that blatantly seek to make it harder for Americans, specifically Americans of color, to vote.
If you haven’t heard exactly what the most recent Georgia law does, its specific provisions cut the amount of time to obtain an absentee ballot from 180 days to 78 days, cut the ratio of ballot drop boxes to one per every 100,000 voters, limit the days and times when early voting is allowed and restrict the ability of polling places to extend hours because of high turnout.
The situation has become so bad that many large companies across the country are now speaking out about the laws. Rather than acknowledging these criticisms and retracting shameful bill proposals, Republican politicians are seeking to punish companies for speaking up, just like they are punishing specific voter groups with voting laws. This is not only against our American ideals of free speech, it is against the concept of supporting businesses and free enterprise I always believed was a principle of Republican politics growing up.
So what are companies doing? In Georgia, Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines, which are both based in Atlanta, issued statements opposing the new Georgia voting law. Other companies are expected to follow suit. Major League Baseball moved the All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest. These actions reflect an essential American freedom. Companies can speak out on issues on behalf of their stakeholders. Freedom of speech doesn’t end once you incorporate.
However, action is now being taken in retaliation for this speech. Georgia Republicans attempted to vote to end a tax break that has long existed to help Delta. There were also efforts against Coke beverages, and a Republican in the U.S. House wants to vote to end the MLB’s antitrust exemption. These moves are a clear attempt to punish these companies for speaking up for their values, employees and customers. That is not American and it should be criticized as such.
As soon as we let lawmakers and the government retaliate against companies for taking stands on issues that are important to them, business owners will be forced to silence themselves for fear of harming their business and livelihood. And while a large multinational corporation may not be as vulnerable to state or local government interference, think of if a local business owner opposed the mayor of their small town on an issue, and was then punished because of it. This trend of retaliatory behavior has the potential to become a crippling trend to both free speech and businesses everywhere.
So as we watch the development of further voter suppression laws as unfounded conspiracies about 2020 continue, watch out for threats to use official state and legislative powers against private businesses. It represents an abuse of the lawmaking power we entrust in our legislators, and it shows a lack of respect for the businesses that make up the backbone of our economy and provide a livelihood for millions of Americans. This shouldn’t continue.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.