Church leaders seek Home Depot boycott on Georgia voting law

·3 min read

ATLANTA — A group of religious leaders is calling for a boycott of Georgia-based Home Depot, saying the home improvement giant hasn't done enough to oppose the state's new voting laws.

African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Reginald Jackson said the company has remained “silent and indifferent” to his efforts to rally opposition to the new state law pushed by Republicans, as well as to similar efforts elsewhere.

“We just don't think we ought to let their indifference stand,” Jackson said.

The leader of all his denomination’s churches in Georgia, Jackson met last week with other Georgia-based executives to urge them to oppose the voting law. But he said he’s had no contact with Home Depot, despite repeated efforts to reach the company.

Home Depot spokesperson Margaret Smith said the company has helped employees register to vote, helped employees work at polling stations and provided plexiglass dividers for polling stations.

“We’ve decided that the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our statement that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure and support broad voter participation, and to continue to work to ensure our associates in Georgia and across the country have the information and resources to vote,” Smith said in a statement.

The company is Georgia's largest by revenue, profit and employees.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp called the boycott “absolutely ridiculous” on Twitter. At a news conference later, he said Jackson was a “partisan” and his call for a boycott unfairly “targeted” workers at Home Depot.

“They did not ask to be in this political fight,” Kemp said. He added, “This insanity needs to stop.”

Opponents of the new law say it will restrict voting. It requires proof of identification to request an absentee ballot, cuts days for requesting an absentee ballot, shortens early voting before runoff elections, limits drop boxes, allows the state to take over local election offices and bars people from handing out food and water to voters within 150 feet (45 metres ) of a polling place.

Supporters say the bill was demanded by Republican voters alarmed by former President Donald Trump’s claims about fraud and makes absentee balloting more secure, provides a permanent legal basis for drop boxes and expands mandatory weekend early voting days.

Jackson earlier trained criticism on the Coca-Cola Co., but the Atlanta soft drink titan later spoke out forcefully against the law and helped arrange Jackson's meeting with corporate leaders.

“We believe that corporations have a corporate responsibility to their customers, who are Black, white and brown, on the issue of voting," Jackson said. “It doesn't make any sense at all to keep giving dollars and buying products from people that do not support you.”

He said faith leaders may call for boycotts of other companies in the future.

Boycotts in the past have aimed to pressure business leaders to push elected officials to change, but it's not clear Republicans will respond this time. Georgia lawmakers took an unsuccessful vote to strip a jet fuel tax break from Delta Air Lines after that company attacked the law. Some GOP lawmakers demanded that Coca-Cola, which provides free drinks at the state capitol , remove refrigerators from their offices. Kemp and others have repeatedly attacked Major League Baseball for removing its All-Star Game from the Atlanta Braves stadium, blaming Democrats for economic losses. Some members of Congress propose revoking the league's antitrust exemption.

Jackson acknowledged retaliation, but said that if companies stand together, “there is no way Republicans will go after them.”

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Associated Press writer Sudhin Thanawala contributed to this report.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

Jeff Amy, The Associated Press