Brian Kemp

Gov. Brian Kemp decries the decision of Major League Baseball to pull the All-Star Game from Georgia during a news conference April 3, 2021, at the state Capitol in Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp defended Atlanta-based The Home Depot Inc. Tuesday after a group of Black Georgia faith leaders called for a nationwide boycott of the company over its position on the state’s controversial election law.

“They did not ask to be in this political fight,” Kemp told reporters during a news conference. “It’s unfair to them, their families and their livelihoods to be targeted.”

Home Depot released a statement after Kemp signed Senate Bill 202 late last month that “all elections should be fair, accessible and secure.”

But the bill’s opponents criticized the statement as not strong enough, particularly when other Atlanta-based companies including Delta Air Lines Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. have forcefully condemned the legislation.

"A boycott is not something we wanted to do, but now it is something that we must do," Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees Georgia’s African Methodist Episcopal churches, said Tuesday.

“Blacks and people of color, like others, are also [Home Depot] customers and they benefit from our dollars. … We believe they should oppose any effort to suppress our votes."

While faith leaders were on the front lines Tuesday in calling for a boycott, Kemp said the effort is being led by Democrats intent on pressuring businesses to get behind congressional passage of sweeping voting rights legislation.

“This is not about Georgia’s election law,” he said. “This is about a movement at the national level to nationalize elections and have an unconstitutional takeover of state elections.”

The bill, which cleared the Republican-controlled General Assembly last month along party lines, replaces the signature-match verification process for mail-in ballots with an ID requirement. It also restricts the location of drop boxes and prohibits non-poll workers from handing out food and drinks within 150 feet of voters standing in line.

But it also expands weekend early voting hours in most Georgia counties and authorizes the use of drop boxes in state law for the first time.

By comparison, Kemp said voting laws in Democratic states including New York, New Jersey and President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware are more restrictive than Georgia’s new law.

That message has been lost in the rush to boycott Georgia-based companies and in Major League Baseball’s recent decision to pull the All-Star Game out of Georgia, the governor said.

“We have to stand up and tell people the truth about Senate Bill 202,” Kemp said. “It makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat in Georgia.”

Home Depot has 90 facilities, 15 distribution centers and accounts for 30,000 jobs in Georgia, Kemp said. The company has stores on Atlanta Highway in Loganville and West Spring Street in Monroe.

Dave Williams is the bureau chief of the Capitol Beat News Service.

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