Patagonia is taking action to support democracy in the United States.
The California-based outdoor clothing company announced on Monday that it's donating $1 million to two voting rights groups in Georgia in response to the state’s recently passed legislation that restricts voting, according to the the Hill.
In a statement, Patagonia’s CEO Ryan Gellert said the company would split its donation equally between the Black Voters Matter Fund and the New Georgia Project, voting rights groups that are working to ensure eligible voters in Georgia have the information they need to register and exercise their right to vote.
“Protecting our democracy is an all-hands-on-deck commitment that’s ongoing,” Gellert said. “The strength of our democracy depends on every vote being counted everywhere, and we must protect access to the ballot box.”
He also called on fellow CEOs to take action to defend the right to vote by funding voting rights activists and networks, urging their senators to support the For the People Act (H.R. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), and encouraging business partners to speak out against state laws that would restrict voting access.
Georgia Senate Bill 202 (SB202) has received widespread criticism since being signed into law on March 25. It is part of a wave of legislation that has been introduced in the US in response to the historic voter turnout during the 2020 presidential election.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, legislators introduced 361 bills with restrictive voting provisions in 47 states in March 2021 alone. Many of these bills outline new restrictions to absentee voting, such as shortening the window that a ballot may be received and enforcing stricter voter ID requirements.
Voting rights activists say that the influx of voting laws will disenfranchise certain communities, especially low-income voters and people of color, who already have low voter turnout because of voting restrictions rooted in racial biases, according to the American Bar Association.
Critics of Georgia’s new law specifically list a variety of provisions they deem restrictive and say will hurt voter turnout. According to the AP, these include the law requiring voters provide an ID to request a mail-in ballot, shortening the window for voters to request a mail-in ballot and send that ballot back, limiting the number of drop boxes available for mail-in ballots, prohibiting people from handing out food or drink to anyone standing in line to vote, and giving Georgia’s State Election Board new powers to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials.
Stronger voter ID requirements disproportionately affect low-income voters and people of color for a variety of reasons, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. One of these is that obtaining the necessary documentation — such as a birth certificate or passport — is too expensive or difficult for many people to acquire, thus limiting the desire to vote. Another reason is that many people who live in urban areas often do not get a driver’s license.
In addition to Patagonia, several other company leaders have acknowledged how Georgia’s new voting law is restrictive and will suppress votes.
Actions speak louder than words.— Patagonia (@patagonia) April 6, 2021
We’re donating $1 million to groups working to defend our democracy and your right to vote. Join us in taking 3 important actions: https://t.co/mo61VCidwf
James Quincey, chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Company, one of Georgia’s largest companies, said that the company does not support Georgia’s voting law and will focus on supporting “federal legislation that protects voting access and addresses voter suppression across the country,” according to a statement released April 1.
Delta Air Lines, based in Atlanta, Georgia, originally expressed support for SB 202, releasing a statement that applauded the bill for “expand[ing] weekend voting ... and protect[ing] a voter’s ability to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason.”
After Delta received criticism for not acknowledging the bill’s restrictive provisions, CEO of Delta Air Lines Ed Bastian said that he spoke with leaders and employees in the Black community and understands that “[SB 202] is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.” Bastian also pointed out that the law would “make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives.”
As more voting laws are introduced every month in response to baseless fears of voter fraud, voting rights activists say it is more important than ever for individuals and companies to hold government representatives accountable to improve voting access.
Disclosure: Delta Air Lines and the Coca-Cola Company are partners of Global Citizen.