At Net Health, we’ve long said “we strive to grow personally, professionally and in our communities.” One of our communities is the State of Georgia, where over 10% of our employees and many of our customers are located. I believe that Georgia’s newly adopted Election Integrity Act restricts voting rights in ways that are damaging to the health of the community. In this blog, my goal is to explain why I believe that and why I feel a need to speak out.
In the United States, we are privileged to live in a democracy. For all its flaws, democracy affords us a voice in public affairs that doesn’t exist in many parts of the world. The foundation of democracy is the right to vote, as it determines how we decide the core questions our country faces. I believe communities are healthier when voting is easily accessible and when the broadest spectrum of voters can participate in elections.
SB202, the new Georgia law, makes it more difficult to vote, especially for the least privileged among us. The bill is complex, but three of its provisions are most disturbing.
- Dramatic Reductions in Drop Boxes. The Georgia law restricts drop boxes for absentee ballots to one per 100,000 voters. Among other things, the effect of this reduction will be to reduce the availability of drop boxes by 80% in Fulton County, where our office has been. This restriction will make it harder for people to vote, especially for those without transportation or time to spend travelling to now distant drop boxes. Absentee ballots have been used successfully for years and continue to be available under the Election Integrity Act. Given that drop boxes are secure enough to be permitted under the law, it does not make sense to limit their availability. Practically speaking, it seems wrong to make a nurse at one of the facilities we serve work that much harder to cast a vote after a long day serving patients.
- Restrictions on Absentee Ballots. The new law further restricts the use of absentee ballots by cutting in half the window to request an absentee ballot and shortening the time to submit an absentee ballot. For many healthcare providers whose work and family responsibilities make voting during normal business hours difficult, absentee ballots provide a means of ensuring their voices are heard. I believe we should encourage their participation, not restrict it.
- Restricting the Provision of Food and Water to People in Line to Vote. Long lines for voting are a fact of life in Atlanta. One of the most inspiring things we saw in recent elections was people standing in line for hours simply to cast a vote. Limiting their access to food and water seems cruel and unnecessary when there are many other ways to restrict inappropriate influences on voters.
Voting rights experts believe that the new law will have a disproportionate effect on communities of color. This is troubling because these are the communities that have literally shed blood to obtain the right to vote. I want to live in a country where all voices are heard, and I believe the new Georgia law makes that much more difficult.
Whether you agree or disagree with the sentiments above, you may still wonder why I, as the CEO of Net Health, believe I need to speak out. Here’s why:
- If Not Now, When? According to the Brennan Center for Justice, bills to restrict voting rights are moving through legislatures in 24 states. I fear that without action now, voting rights in our country will be fundamentally changed.
- The Voice of Business Matters. State legislators can benefit themselves by passing bills that restrict voting by populations that don’t support them. Advocacy groups can be tuned out by people who distrust them. In this discussion, business has a unique role to play in ensuring that the playing field is fair. This is why major technology companies like Microsoft, Apple and Dell have come out against laws that restrict voting rights, and why legendary Atlanta companies such as Coca Cola and Delta have come out against the Georgia law. It is also why I believe we need to join them.
- Voting Impacts All Other Public Issues. I appreciate that people have different political views, and I want those different perspectives to flourish within Net Health and in our society as a whole. But the rules need to be fair, and that is especially true when the rules concern voting.
The Georgia law caused enough concern to make me speak out. To really have an impact, however, I need to do more, and that’s why I plan to work with technology councils in our communities to prevent further erosion of voting rights. If you want to join that effort, I welcome your support.