Delta Airlines came out in strong opposition to Georgia’s recently passed voting law on Wednesday, with CEO Ed Bastian writing in a memo to employees that the law is “unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”
In the week since a sweeping package of election restrictions was signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, activists have threatened to boycott Delta and other Atlanta-based companies, saying they didn’t do enough to stop the law from being passed.
Delta’s statement,which the company shared with NBC News, is a forceful repudiation of the Georgia law — and similar efforts around the country.
“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,” the memo reads.
Dozens of Black business leaders publicly urged corporations to oppose voting restrictions in a public letter on Wednesday, The New York Times reported.
“This is a call for action,” Ken Chenault, former CEO of American Express, said on CNBC on Wednesday. “What we have heard from corporations is general statements about their support for voting rights and against voter suppression. But now we’re asking, put those words into action. We’re asking corporate America to publicly and directly oppose any discriminatory legislation and all measures designed to limit America’s ability to vote.”
Bastian suggests that Delta could get involved in future voting legislation fights, too.
“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections,” Bastian wrote. “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. So there is much work ahead, and many more opportunities to have an impact.”
Advocates began pressuring major Atlanta-based corporations well before the bill’s passage. Several companies issued statements re-emphasizing their support for free and fair elections and voting rights, but advocates argued those statements fell short of combating the proposed laws.
The statement notes that Delta did pressure lawmakers during the legislative process.
“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,” it notes. “We had some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics that some had proposed.”
While it is unclear exactly what provisions of the law Delta opposed, earlier versions of the bill would have dramatically curbed weekend early voting, something the final version expanded.
Kemp pushed back on Delta’s opposition in a statement shared with NBC News on Wednesday.
“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, arguing that the bill expands access and bolsters election security.
“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,” Kemp said.