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Aflac CEO explains why the company doesn’t take a stand on controversial voting laws

·3 min read
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The corporate uproar over laws that restrict voting access reached a fever pitch in Georgia, in March, when Atlanta-based giants Delta (DAL) and Coca-Cola (COKE) condemned a measure enacted by Gov. Brian Kemp after the companies faced pressure from activist groups.

But a number of major Georgia-based companies passed up the opportunity to comment directly on the law that critics say disenfranchises Black voters, including Aflac (AFL), headquartered in Columbus, Georgia. 

In a new interview, Aflac CEO Dan Amos said the company doesn't seek to intervene publicly on divisive political issues like the voting law. Instead, the company strives to address racial justice by achieving diversity and fair treatment within its workforce, he said.

"Whenever you get involved, you're going to make half the people upset — and it would be half your workers, half your policyholders, half of everything," says Amos, who has led the company since 1990. 

"We believe that let the politics fall where they may," he adds.  

The law signed by Kemp includes a slew of measures that could make it harder to vote, including reduced access to ballot drop boxes, a ban on mobile voting centers, and a misdemeanor penalty for offering food and water to voters in line. Proponents say the bills do not intend to discriminate but aim to ensure secure elections.

In March, 72 current and former Black business executives signed a letter condemning the law and calling on corporations to join them. Within weeks, hundreds of companies had signed onto a statement opposing laws that restrict voting access. 

On March 18, prior to the enactment of the Georgia law, Aflac released a general statement of support for voter access and election security but did not take a stance on a particular potential law.

"Aflac will only support solutions that make voting easy and accessible for every eligible voter while maintaining the security and transparency of the voting process," the company said. "As legislators in Georgia continue to debate these issues, we will remain actively involved in the process to influence positive results that are aligned with Aflac's long history of supporting fairness and justice." 

As of June, 17 states had enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote, according to the left-leaning policy institute Brennan Center for Justice

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 09: People wait in line to vote in Georgia's Primary Election on June 9, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Voters in Georgia, West Virginia, South Carolina, North Dakota, and Nevada are holding primaries amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by  Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 09: People wait in line to vote in Georgia's Primary Election on June 9, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Voters in Georgia, West Virginia, South Carolina, North Dakota, and Nevada are holding primaries amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Amos, whose father Paul Amos co-founded Aflac, began at the company in 1973 as a regional sales director. In the ensuing years, he climbed the ranks as president and then CEO. In 2001, he was also named the company's chair.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance, Amos praised the track record of staff diversity at Aflac, which also operates in Japan.

Minority employees comprise 44.7% of the company's workforce, while women make up 66.3%, according to the company's 2018 diversity report, the most recent available online. At the senior level, the share of minorities drops to 25.8% and the share of women to 33.3%, the report says.

"We as a company are very interested in making sure that our people are treated right," Amos says.

"Our board of directors is made up of 65% being minorities or women, now that includes the Japanese," he adds. "But still, we've been very focused on that for many, many years."

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