Patagonia is the latest corporation to weigh in on the recent passage of what are widely seen as wide-ranging restrictions to voting accessibility in Georgia.
The California-based outdoor wear company said it donated $1 million split evenly between two groups, the Black Voters Matter Fund and The New Georgia Project groups, which are actively fighting against further voting restrictions in the U.S. and organizing to make voting more accessible.
“Actions speak louder than words,” the company wrote on social media.
In a longer letter detailing the purpose of the donations, new chief executive officer of Patagonia Works, Ryan Gellert, cited the increased number of people who voted in the November elections. Pew Research found that nearly two-thirds of eligible voters, more than 158 million people of voting age, cast ballots in the presidential election. Patagonia said that was “a major victory” for democracy. And despite allegations by certain Republican lawmakers and fundraisers of fraud, courts and lawmakers have agreed that none existed.
“In every county across the country, there were safe, secure elections,” Gellert said. “But instead of celebrating democracy in action, a group of lawmakers in Georgia and states across America are doing everything in their power to make it harder for their constituents to vote.”
This year, 47 states have introduced 361 bills that would restrict voting rights, according to various media reports. In Georgia — which not only last year voted for Joe Biden as president but also democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, flipping political control in that body — Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed various restrictions on voting in the state into law last week.
“In reality, it will only make it harder for Georgians of all racial, socioeconomic and political stripes — especially Black voters — to elect their representatives,” Gellert said.
Specifically, the law enacts a number of requirements, including that absentee voters provide a government ID number; shortens the period open for absentee voting; prohibits the sending of unsolicited absentee ballot applications; prohibits those standing in line to vote from being given any food or drink; prohibits the use of mobile voting facilities in counties; limits the number of ballot drop boxes to one per 100,000 active registered voters, and shortens the amount of time before a runoff election is held, like the one that saw Ossoff and Warnock elected.
“Protecting our democracy is an all-hands-on-deck commitment that’s ongoing,” Gellert said. And he urged any CEO denouncing the Georgia law, which includes American Airlines and Major League Baseball, to do more than “make a corporate statement,” saying they should “fund” activists working against the law and voting registration efforts in general.
Gellert also urged corporations to halt “contributions to any politician suppressing votes from people of color” and said business leaders need to write senators in states where they conduct business pushing the passage of pro-voting legislation, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Lastly, Gellert said business leaders should communicate and facilitate “speaking out” against further laws that work to restrict or inhibit voting.
“Opting to stay silent while the constitutional rights of voters in Georgia and across our country are being threatened is tantamount to supporting these unjust laws,” Gellert said. “Our colleagues, clients and customers won’t forget what we do in this moment.”