Microsoft has some serious concerns about a recently passed election law in Georgia, saying it unfairly restricts the right of people to vote legally, securely and safely. In a blog post published on Wednesday, Microsoft President Brad Smith slammed the new law and said the company is concerned “by the law’s impact on communities of color, on every voter, and on our employees and their families.”
Georgia’s new Election Integrity Act was signed into law last week by Gov. Brian Kemp. State officials say the law enacts security measures for elections and expands access to voting, while critics, including the Georgia NAACP, say the law will disenfranchise Black and minority voters.
In February, Microsoft announced plans to expand its footprint in Atlanta, and throughout Georgia, making the city one of the company’s largest hubs in the US. Smith on Wednesday raised concerns about a handful of provisions in the law that place restrictions on voting drop boxes, absentee ballots and provisional ballots.
“Georgia’s new law requires that every county have a secure drop box for absentee ballots (which is good) but limits them to only one per 100,000 registered voters (which is terrible),” Smith wrote. “This means that Fulton County, where most of Microsoft’s employees live, likely will see an 80 percent reduction in drop boxes, from 40 during the 2020 election to only about eight moving forward.”
The secretary of state’s office, which organizes and oversees elections in Georgia, didn’t immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment. In a statement released on Friday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pushed back on criticism of the law, saying “cries of ‘voter suppression’ from those on the left ring hollow.”
Several other major US companies, including Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola, which have headquarters in Atlanta, have also spoken out against the new election law. Following Microsoft’s blog post, several other tech companies have also started to weigh in.
In a statement shared with Axios, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company supports efforts to make democracy’s future “more hopeful and inclusive” than its past.
“The right to vote is fundamental in a democracy. American history is the story of expanding the right to vote to all citizens, and Black people, in particular, have had to march, struggle and even give their lives for more than a century to defend that right,” Cook said in a statement to Axios. “Apple believes that, thanks in part to the power of technology, it ought to be easier than ever for every eligible citizen to exercise their right to vote.”
Twitter, which has an office in Atlanta, said the efforts in Georgia are “a dangerous step backwards.”
“Voting should be accessible to everyone who is eligible,” said Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, vice president of public policy in the Americas for Twitter, in an emailed statement on Thursday. “It is critical that we collectively oppose voter suppression and promote voting access and election transparency.”
Herrera-Flanigan added that that Twitter “remains committed to protecting voting rights, as demonstrated through our civic integrity and engagement work, which strives to ensure that people can participate in elections without suppression and intimidation, and with the reliable information they need to engage. ”
When asked about the Georgia election law, Facebook said it supports voting that’s more rather than less accessible but didn’t specifically mention the state’s new regulations.
“We support making voting as accessible and broad-based as possible and oppose efforts to make it harder for people to vote,” said Roy Austin, deputy general counsel for civil rights at Facebook, in an emailed statement. “We believe that voting is voice which is why we helped over 4 million people register to vote last year and tens of millions more get access to reliable information about how to cast a ballot in their state.”
In a tweet sent Wednesday, Google Senior Vice President of Global Affairs Kent Walker said the company is concerned about “efforts to restrict voting at a local level” and highlighted the search giant’s support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.