Microsoft voices concern over new Georgia law’s impact on voting as it plans major growth in state

The Atlanta skyline. (Flickr Photo via Georgia National Guard)

A month ago, Microsoft was excited to announced its plans to grow its presence in Georgia and eventually turn Atlanta into one of the company’s largest hubs in the U.S. On Wednesday, Microsoft President Brad Smith was voicing concern about the future of fair elections and voting rights in the state.

In a blog post, Smith said Georgia’s new Republican-backed “Election Integrity Act,” signed into law last week by Gov. Brian Kemp, “has important provisions that unfairly restrict the rights of people to vote legally, securely, and safely.”

Microsoft, according to Smith, is concerned by the law’s impact on communities of color, on every voter, and Microsoft employees and their families. He pointed out aspects of the law that were most troubling, including restrictions on voting drop boxes, restrictions on absentee ballots and restrictions on provisional ballots.

Here’s what Smith had to say about drop boxes in particular:

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). 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.

From our perspective, there is no rational basis for the Georgia legislature to authorize secure drop boxes but limit their use so severely. Microsoft is headquartered near Seattle in a county and state where secure drop boxes are almost as convenient as a postal service mailbox. We know first-hand that they make voting more convenient and more secure. A sound approach to voting rights should encourage rather than restrict them.

Microsoft’s move put it ahead of other large corporations who had failed to express vocal enough opposition to the law and faced growing public cries for boycotts. Those calls on social media may have finally pushed Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, two of Georgia’s biggest companies, to issue sharply worded statements on Wednesday calling the law “unacceptable.”

“We hope that companies will come together and make clear that a healthy business requires a healthy community. And a healthy community requires that everyone have the right to vote conveniently, safely, and securely,” Smith wrote.

Update: Axios reported that Apple CEO Tim Cook also sounded on the law, stating that “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.”