Coca-Cola Just Came Out Against Voting Restrictions In Georgia. Here's Why

Initially, Coca-Cola might not have wanted to openly oppose Georgia's House Bill 531 or the state's Senate Bill, SB241 — a bill Stacey Abrams called "a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie" (via The Guardian) — but it appears public pressure has forced them to reconsider. Popular Information reports that Coca-Cola has given $34,750 worth of donations to 29 of the bills' co-sponsors. The Brennan Center for Justice, meanwhile, warns that if passed, the legislation, which Coca-Cola put its money behind, would disproportionately restrict the rights of Black voters in Georgia. The bills call, among other things, on new voter identification requirements, on doing away with early in-person voting on Sundays, and on ending no-excuse voting by mail.

Coca-Cola, an Atlanta, Georgia-based company, has a history of getting involved in state politics. NPR, for example, notes that in 1964 it was Coca-Cola's CEO, at the behest of Atlanta's mayor, who ensured that the city's white elites attend a dinner honoring Martin Luther King Jr., who had just won a Nobel Prize. The company's "giant corporate foot," as NPR journalist Jim Burress called it, can and has made a difference in the advancement of civil rights in the state, especially when Coca-Cola is pressured into taking a stand. That's exactly what activists counted on when it began organizing protests outside of The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia (via Twitter).

Has Coca-Cola changed its mind?

On Monday, March 16, 2021, protestors made headlines when they staged a die-in outside The World of Coca-Cola to force the company's hand. "If they don't respect our rights, if they don't respect our voice, if they don't respect our votes, they do not get our dollars," Rep. Derrick Jackson told GPB. Protestors also took out newspaper ads with Coca-Cola's contact info, encouraging them to contact the company, and erected billboards asking Coca-Cola to act, reminding the company that "freedom to vote tastes good to all Georgians" (via CNN).

Coca-Cola appears to be tentatively listening. When AJC reporter Greg Bluestein reached out to the company, it released a statement confirming that they were "aligned" with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce's "concern and opposition" to the bills. "We support efforts by the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to help facilitate a balanced approach to the election bills that have been introduced in Georgia Legislature this session," the company wrote.

The Georgia NAACP, however, doesn't think its statement of support of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce's dedication to "a balanced approach to the election bills" is good enough. "It's time to light a [fire emoji] in the soul of Georgia voters!" it tweeted.