If you’ve been paying attention the last two weeks, you’ve heard about Georgia’s voting law and the growing corporate backlash. Most recently, the actor Will Smith announced on Monday that he was moving his latest project, the Apple thriller Emancipation, out of Georgia, where it was set to film. “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access,” Smith and director Antoine Fuqua said in a press release.
But like the other corporations and politicians expressing outrage over Georgia’s law, it’s based on a lie.
Politicians and outside groups are using lies and distortions to try to smear Georgia legislators, pressure Georgia businesses and hurt Georgian workers over common-sense laws that protect Georgia’s election system. If the spin doesn’t stop, Georgia and our democracy will both suffer.
After Georgia’s General Assembly passed SB 202 and Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill, a powerful misinformation machine quickly kicked into gear. From cable networks to the U.S. Senate to the White House itself, politicians and pundits slammed Georgia’s law as soon as it passed and called for mass boycotts of Georgia businesses. But these attacks don’t hold up to the facts.
Senator Chuck Schumer was one of the first out of the gate, stating the General Assembly “recently passed a bill to eliminate early voting on Sunday”—a claim which was patently false. The law actually doubles the required days of early voting. President Biden himself weighed in, calling Georgia’s new election law “Jim Crow on steroids.” His basis for the claim? Biden said that the new Georgia law limits early voting hours—another obvious falsehood. The new law actually increases both early voting hours and the number of weekend voting days. These false claims were so blatant that even The Washington Post gave Biden four Pinocchios, while Politifact fact-checked Schumer’s lie.
But other groups have taken up the claims. MSNBC claimed the law prohibits “food or water in line,” yet another false claim repeated across the country. Under the new provision designed to limit electioneering, any voter can bring food or water into line, poll workers can pass out water, and third-party groups can pass out refreshments 150 away from polling places. These distortions are the ammunition for claims of “Jim Crow.”
But words have meaning, and these lies have real consequences. I would know: They cost me my job.
Last month, the grifters at The Lincoln Project targeted me in a series of tweets. Among other things, they falsely accused me of co-sponsoring a bill to “suppress black votes” and “institute a new Jim Crow.” They made the claims in several since-deleted tweets that also tagged my employer, a major law firm, and several of its well-known clients.
In less than 24 hours, my reputation and employment were destroyed. And all over fake news.
The charge for which I lost my job is, like Schumer and Biden’s claims, unfounded. I did not try to take away anyone’s vote.
The unreported truth is that I co-sponsored and voted for a bipartisan bill, Georgia Senate Bill 62, which calls for ballots in the state of Georgia to have a watermark, seal and other security elements to include the precinct number. These are simply best practices for voting that any ordinary Georgian should support. The bill even received numerous Democratic votes.
When I called out The Lincoln Project, they deleted their tweets, but no apology was offered, and the damage was done. I was no longer employed.
But my experience is nothing compared to what other Georgians might suffer. The cost of this misinformation campaign is already adding up: After calls from the Left to boycott Georgia employers, the MLB decided to move the All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado, without specifying their objection to our laws. That move alone will cost the state $100 million. That won’t hurt politicians or CEOs, but it will hurt Georgia’s workers, fans and families—just like Apple moving production of its television show.
If the Left succeeds in pushing boycotts based on falsehoods, they will likely put thousands of Georgian workers out of work—many of them minorities.
Even Stacey Abrams agrees: She said that minorities in Georgia are “the most likely to be hurt by potential boycotts of Georgia,” and asked non-Georgians not to boycott the state. Unfortunately, Abrams herself has pushed the misleading narrative that has stoked the fire of woke anger against the Peach State. Now she is recognizing that her words matter. I hope it’s not too late.
You don’t have to agree with Georgia’s common-sense election integrity laws to see the threat that these lies pose to democracy. Out-of-state firebrands with no clue about Georgia’s voting laws are using lies and deception to stoke division, pressure powerful corporations, hurt Georgia workers and destabilize our great nation.
When lies and economic terrorism are used to silence voters and lawmakers, democracy is in trouble.
John Albers is a Senator in the Georgia General Assembly, representing the 56th district.
The views in this article are the writer’s own.