Microsoft is rarely shy about wading into the political conversation these days, and the latest missive from president Brad Smith is no exception: in a blog post titled “Why we are concerned about Georgia’s new election law,” he slams the state’s new Election Integrity Act for making it harder for its employees (and others) to vote — making Microsoft the first big tech company to speak out against the law.
If it’s not clear why Microsoft would go out on a limb to challenge the state on this particular issue, there are a few things you should probably know:
- As Smith points out, Microsoft is becoming a big employer in the state — he says Atlanta is “on the path toward becoming one of Microsoft’s largest hubs in the United States in the coming decade, after Puget Sound and Silicon Valley.” He writes that Microsoft’s workers alone will likely have 80 percent fewer drop boxes for their ballots as a direct result of the law, among other restrictions.
- Big employers in Georgia are currently under scrutiny from activists, including some threatening to boycott both Delta Air Lines and Coke for failing to condemn the law. #BoycottDelta and #BoycottCocaCola were trending topics, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday. Though Delta and Coca-Cola have each now called the bill “unacceptable” in a new memo and a new interview respectively, it may be a little late. Microsoft is now positioning itself favorably compared to these other big companies, largely by being a newcomer that already issued a tweet.
- Smith, the company’s former chief legal officer, is still toeing the line here. While many critics of the Georgia law are happily calling it a form of voter suppression, Microsoft simply explains how this might be “challenging” for voters rather than tugging on heartstrings. Smith doesn’t get any spicier than “From our perspective, there is no rational basis for the Georgia legislature to authorize secure drop boxes but limit their use so severely” or “Can anyone imagine telling taxpayers that they must stop using a mailbox to send in their tax return four days before taxes are due?”
- There’s no promise of any action from Microsoft, just a hope that “companies will come together and make clear that a healthy business requires a healthy community,” and that “we should work together to press the Georgia legislature to change it.”
It’s nice to see Microsoft — or any company — voice a desire to maintain or improve voting rights and explain why, though.