The children of three late civil rights movement leaders released a joint letter late Monday night to corporate leaders and lawmakers in response to the new voting law in Georgia.
Bernice A. King, the daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; Al Vivian, the son of the Rev. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian; and John-Miles Lewis, the son of US Rep. John Lewis, said corporate leaders failed to live up to “their racial equity commitments” and disrespected their fathers’ tireless work.
“Rather than sowing seeds to provide democracy the greatest chance to grow today and prevail tomorrow, legislators are attempting to transport us back to the shameful period of American history when mass voter suppression for communities of color was the law of the land,” they wrote in the letter.
The three of them join numerous groups urging corporations based in the state to take a stance against the new law, which some consider one of the nation’s most restrictive voting laws.
The law, signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp last week, imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water. Voting rights groups have said the law would target Black residents and other voters of color in the state.
“The new voter suppression laws are a perversion of truth. Our democracy will be destroyed if we use blunt instruments to appease falsehoods,” they wrote.
The three children compared the response of Atlanta’s “civic and business community” following the passing of Vivian and Lewis last year to the groups’ response to the Georgia voting law.
They “became vocal champions of equity, diversity, and inclusion,” the letter says.
“Yet, when the first test came challenging our corporations to move from words to action, to stand on behalf of disenfranchised voters, there was shocking silence,” the letter added. “Historically, companies’ growth and prosperity in Georgia required integration of democracy and free enterprise. The lack of action is not only ethically wrong and morally reprehensible, it hurts the corporate bottom line. Racism is bad for business.”
Civil rights and voting rights groups have filed at least three lawsuits in federal court challenging the voting law.
The latest suit was announced Tuesday and was filed on behalf of the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Women Watch Afrika, Latino Community Fund Georgia, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
The lawsuit alleges the new law makes it harder for Georgians to vote, “particularly voters of color, new citizens, and religious communities,” the groups said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
Voters of color were able to cast their ballots after they learned of secure ballot drop boxes, took advantage of early voting and received voter education materials in their native language due to the groups’ work, the lawsuit states.
Another lawsuit was filed earlier this week by the Georgia NAACP, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, League of Women Voters of Georgia, GALEO Latino Community Development Fund, Common Cause and the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe. That lawsuit claims “SB 202 is the culmination of a concerted effort to suppress the participation of Black voters and other voters of color by the Republican State Senate, State House, and Governor.”
That lawsuit alleges Republican officials included specific changes that target voters of color after the record turnout and Democratic victories in the November 2020 presidential election and two Senate runoffs in January 2021.
The Georgia law is part of a larger effort by GOP legislators across the country – including in the battleground states of Michigan and Arizona – to roll back voting access in the wake of the 2020 election.
Across the country, according to a February analysis by the liberal leaning Brennan Center for Justice, at least 253 bills have been introduced this year in 43 state legislatures with provisions that would restrict voting access – more than six times the number of bills for the same time last year.
CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Pamela Kirkland contributed to this report.