Georgian Governor Brian Kemp on Saturday heavily criticized Major League Baseball’s decision to postpone its all-star game because of the new law restricting voting out of the state, arguing that the move would bring Georgians an economic success.
Mr Kemp, a Republican, described the struggle for suffrage in Georgia as a Democrat-invented partisan struggle rather than a civil rights struggle to protect access to the ballot as Republicans seek to set new limits on suffrage across the country.
“Yesterday Major League Baseball gave in to the fears and lies of liberal activists,” Kemp said at a press conference hosted by Republican Attorney General G.O.P. Members of the legislature and grassroots activists. “In the midst of a pandemic, Major League Baseball has put the desires of Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden before the economic well-being of hardworking Georgians who are counting on the all-star game for a paycheck.”
The governor peppered his speech with conservative buzzwords such as “break culture” and underlined how Republicans are trying to gain access to the vote in order to solve a wedge problem that they can entangle in the cultural debates that enliven the party’s grassroots.
Preparing for re-election in 2022, Mr Kemp has sought to re-enter the favor of Republican voters after becoming a key political target of former President Donald J. Trump for refusing to help Mr . Trump turned the state’s election results upside down last year. As a former Georgia Secretary of State with decisions of his own that have made voting difficult for residents of the state, he is once again a key G.O.P. Voice to lead the prosecution on this matter.
On Saturday, he repeatedly tried to refer to the league’s decision as that of Stacey Abrams, the suffrage advocate and former Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia, who is expected to take action against Mr Kemp again next year.
Ms. Abrams, one of the most prominent critics of Georgia’s electoral law, has pushed back calls for a boycott of the state by sports leagues and corporations. She said Friday that she was “disappointed” that baseball officials pulled the All-Star game, but that she was “proud of her stance on voting rights”.
In defending the Georgia law, Mr. Kemp singled out two democratically controlled states, New York and Delaware, and compared their electoral regulations to the new Georgia law. These states do not offer as many options for early voting as Georgia, but neither have they passed new laws introducing voting restrictions.
“In New York they have 10 days early voting,” said Kemp (New York) actually has nine). “We have at least 17 in Georgia, and two additional Sundays are optional in our state. In New York you have to have an excuse to vote absent. In Georgia, for whatever reason, you can vote absent. “
Mr Kemp’s press conference followed a week of television appearances in which he vigorously defended the law, arguing that it expanded access to voting due to an additional Saturday required for early voting. He and other Republicans have denounced criticism of the law as a political game by state and national democratic leaders. (The New York Times reviewed the electoral law and found 16 key sections that could hinder access to elections or the impartial administration of elections.)
The decision to postpone the All-Star game was the first major statement by a leading organization or company since Georgia passed the electoral law and came amid a growing number of corporate statements denouncing the legislation after it was already signed had been.
Delta and Coca-Cola, two of the state’s largest corporations, broke weeks of silence on Wednesday, stating that they were breaking the law.
“I want to be crystal clear,” said James Quincey, CEO of Coca-Cola, on Wednesday. “The Coca-Cola Company does not support this legislation because it is harder for people to vote, not easier.”
Large corporations and Major League Baseball have come under pressure to take action from black executives. Black baseball players and religious leaders who wanted key American institutions to take a stronger stance against the electoral law in Georgia, as well as similar Republican efforts now advancing in states across the country.
Mr Kemp urged Major League Baseball to consider what they could do if the Atlanta Braves made the playoffs.
“What are you going to do if the Braves make the playoffs?” he said. “Are you going to postpone the damn playoff game?”
And he said further event changes or boycotts would not cause him to reconsider or support adjustments to the law.
Mr Kemp promised that he would “not waver” and said, “For anyone out there who thinks that any kind of snowball effect will affect me, it will not.”