Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) fiercely defended his state’s new voting law after the MLB said it was pulling its All-Star Game out of Atlanta, saying the new restrictions were “worth” boycotts and lawsuits against the Peach State.
“Free and fair elections are the foundation of who we are as a state and a nation. Secure, accessible, fair elections are worth the threats. They are worth the boycotts as well as the lawsuits,” Kemp said at a press conference Saturday.
“I want to be clear: I will not be backing down from this fight, and neither are the people who are here with me today,” he added.
The comments marked Kemp’s latest rebuke of MLB over its Friday announcement that the July 13 game would be taken out of Georgia over the law he signed last month.
The new restrictions include limits on ballot drop boxes, shorter periods in which Georgia residents can apply for mail-in ballots and new photo ID requirements for absentee voting.
Democrats have come out swinging against the new law, saying it amounts to voter suppression and pressuring private companies to speak out against it.
MLB went the furthest of any private group, announcing it would pull its annual All-Star Game directly in response to the new measures.
Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, said in a statement that the decision was made after conversations with teams and players and that moving the game is “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.”
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said.
The MLB draft will also be moved out of Georgia.
Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey has also called the restrictions “unacceptable” and “a step backwards,” and Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said the law “includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives.”
Kemp on Saturday ramped up his criticism of companies that have come out against the law, name-checking several that have hammered the new restrictions.
“We will not be intimidated, and we will also not be silenced. Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola and Delta may be scared of Stacey Abrams, Joe Biden and the left, but I am not, and we are not as Georgians,” he said.
Kemp and other Republicans have maintained that the new law is necessary to ensure election security, though no widespread fraud was found after three certifications of Georgia’s election results in November.
“There were reasons to try to figure out a better way, a more accessible way and a more secure way for us to hold elections, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We shouldn’t apologize for wanting to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” he said.
The burgeoning private sector criticism is reminiscent of the backlash to a 2016 law in North Carolina that blocked cities from allowing transgender people to use public bathrooms that align with their gender identities. A flood of detractors and cancellations of major events forced the Tar Heel State to backtrack.
However, Kemp said he does not intend to revoke the law, even if more events are scrapped in Georgia.
“I can tell you that we will not waiver. For anybody that’s out there who’s thinking that any kind of snowball effect is going to have any kind of effect on me, it is not,” he said. “We have worked in good faith with the business community, with the chambers of commerce, with some of these same companies that have flip-flopped on this issue.”