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Georgia governor hits back after Delta CEO criticizes state election law as 'unacceptable'

"However, I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said.

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in May 2020
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in May 2020
(Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Updated: April 1, 2021 - 12:07am

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp fired back at Delta CEO Ed Bastian's comments blasting election legislation that was recently passed by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature.

The airline company had come under criticism and faced calls for a boycott after the CEO issued a statement last week about the legislation.

"The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process, and expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting and protects a voter’s ability to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason. For the first time, drop boxes have also been authorized for all counties statewide and poll workers will be allowed to work across county lines," the CEO said in part of his statement last week.

"Nonetheless, we understand concerns remain over other provisions in the legislation, and there continues to be work ahead in this important effort. We are committed to continuing to listen to our people and our communities, and engage with leaders from both parties to ensure every eligible employee and Georgia voter can exercise their right to vote," another part of the statement said.

Keith Olbermann called for people to boycott the company.

Another Twitter user, in response to a Delta tweet about traveling to Iceland, posted a comment declaring: "If I was planning a trip to Iceland, I’d rather strap myself on the back of a goose then fly with @Delta #SayNoToVoterSuppression #ShameOnYou"

But on Wednesday in a memo to Delta employees that was posted publicly online, Bastian blasted the Georgia legislation.

"Since the bill’s inception, Delta joined other major Atlanta corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties, to try and remove some of the most egregious measures from the bill. We had some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics that some had proposed. However, I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values," Bastian said.

The CEO claimed the legislation will make it more difficult for some Georgians to vote.

"After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong," Bastian said in the memo.

Kemp, who signed the bill into law, pushed back against Bastian.

"Throughout the legislative process, we spoke directly with Delta representatives numerous times. We worked alongside legislative leadership to expand voting opportunities for Georgians, while also taking steps to further secure the ballot box,” Kemp said in a statement.

“At no point did Delta share any opposition to expanding early voting, strengthening voter ID measures, increasing the use of secure drop boxes statewide, and making it easier for local election officials to administer elections — which is exactly what this bill does. The last time I flew Delta, I had to present my photo ID,” he added.

"Today's statement by Delta CEO Ed Bastian stands in stark contrast to our conversations with the company, ignores the content of the new law, and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists.”

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