By Maria Saporta
Political consultant James Carville is issuing a challenge to Georgia’s corporate community: Make sure Georgia holds fair elections on Nov. 3.
“You have all these corporations headquartered there,” Carville said in a telephone interview over the weekend. “The idea that Georgia is incapable of conducting a fair election is ludicrous. Of course, it can.”
Carville said Georgia’s top companies need to stand up and use their influence to ensure their employees, their customers and the general public are able to cast their votes without having to endure long lines or bureaucratic obstacles.
“There’s more technical knowledge in the state of Georgia than anywhere else on the East Coast,” Carville said. “These companies can do something about it. They are not powerless, not even a little bit.”
Carville mentioned several companies by name – Delta Air Lines, the Home Depot, UPS, Waffle House, Georgia Power, the Coca-Cola Co. among others.
“I know how powerful these guys are. These are worldwide brands,” Carville said. “No one is asking them to get involved in politics. They have so many powerful lobbyists. These state legislators are way more afraid of these businesses than anyone else.”
Carville said executives in Atlanta and the rest of the state can be pro-active by offering state and local governments ways to fix the problems.
“The companies can say: ‘We can help you?’” Carville said. “They can go to the Secretary of State and say: ‘This is what we can do to help.’”
Carville, who was born in Georgia at Fort Benning, grew up in Louisiana. Given his flamboyant, yet straight-talk style, he has been called the “Ragin’ Cajun.’
Carville proved his political skills in 1992 when he and Paul Begala were the chief political strategists in the election of Bill Clinton as president. Clinton’s first primary win was in Georgia, and Carville said some of the best memories of his life were from the time he spent in the state. He described Georgia as the most significant state in the South with a great legacy.
“If Louisiana can conduct a fair election, why can’t Georgia?” Carville asked. “For God’s sake, let people vote. It’s outrageous. If you try to vote in Fulton County or DeKalb County, it can take you forever. But outside of Atlanta, you can just walk in and vote. That’s not fair.”
Carville added that Georgia has some of the best universities in the nation, mentioning the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. They too could help ensure a fair election.
There also are other entities that could play a role, such as the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Atlanta Committee for Progress as well as the Carter Center, which monitors elections around the world.
For the past month, Carville has been advocating for Georgia companies to get involved. He first issued a challenge to Georgia on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on July 2, and Republican political consultant Bill Kristol agreed. (They begin discussing Georgia seven minutes into that segment).
“Georgia is on notice on election day. It is ground zero with two Senate races. The heat is coming. The national scrutiny will be intense,” Carville said. “Corporate Georgia can fix this. All they have to do is offer to help.”
When asked whether companies should engage with the individual counties or the state, Carville said they can be the interface between the two, adding: “They can fix this. It’s not that hard.”
Although he is Democrat, Carville said this is not about politics. Companies can accurately state that “the right to vote is an essential right for every Georgian.”
The impetus to get involved should be even more pronounced given the recent death of Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights leader who peacefully fought for voting rights in the 1960s.
“What good does the Voting Rights Act do for you if you don’t have access to a voting machine?” Carville asked. “Companies could do this to honor John Lewis. Voting is a basic American value.”
It would be in the companies’ best interest to make sure their associates and customers are able to vote, Carville said, mentioning that Delta would not want one of its baggage handlers having to wait hours to cast a ballot.
One possible solution Carville mentioned is that Georgia companies also could make their employees be available to serve as poll workers on election day.
“For two cycles in a row, Georgia has been unable to conduct a fair election,” Carville said. “You have between now and November to figure it out. The eyes of the country are going to be on Georgia. It’s not going to go away.”
Carville readily admitted he’s passionate about Georgia and its voting system.
“Just let people vote,” Carville said. “Who could be against having a fair election with everybody having a chance to vote? That’s the way democracy is supposed to work.”