The Surry County Board of Commissioners reversed course Monday and voted 3-2 to rescind its decision to remove 12 Coca-Cola vending machines from the county’s office buildings.
Commissioners Mark Marion, Bill Goins and Larry Johnson voted to rescind the ban. Commissioners Eddie Harris and Van Tucker voted to maintain it.
On May 17, the Republican commissioners voted 2-2, with Johnson abstaining. Under the board’s parliamentary rules, Johnson’s vote to abstain counted as a “yes” vote because he didn’t state a reason for abstaining. The commissioners’ official vote tally was 3-2 to approve the ban.
At Monday’s meeting, Johnson proposed that the commissioners vote again on the issue.
He said he had needed more time to think about the ban before the commissioners’ first vote. Johnson said he supports voting ID laws but doesn’t support removing Coca-Cola machines from Surry County buildings.
In April, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia signed legislation that adds a photo ID requirement for voting absentee by mail, cuts the amount of time people have to request an absentee ballots and limits where ballot drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed. It also bans people from handing out food or water to voters waiting in line.
James Quincey, Coca-Cola’s chief executive in Atlanta, criticized the legislation during an interview on CNBC.
“It does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity,” Quincey said. “This legislation is wrong and needs to be remedied.”
At the commissioners’ meeting, Harris and Tucker said that the ban should remain in place.
“It’s all politics,” Harris said. “Our electoral process doesn’t need to be thrown through the political drudgery of this country. These issues affect Surry County.”
Tucker said he didn’t intend to hurt anyone with his support of the ban.
“My intent was to follow my heart, follow my principles and make a conscientious effort to do what is right,” Tucker said.
During the meeting’s open forum, three representatives of the Coca-Cola Consolidated Inc. of Charlotte and several county residents said that the ban was the wrong approach.
Alison Patient, the company’s vice president for government affairs, asked the Surry commissioners to reconsider the ban.
Patient said her company is a separate entity from the Coca-Coca Co. of Atlanta.
“We have absolutely no control over their opinions or statement about any issue,” Patient said of the Quincey-led soft-drink producer. “And we don’t do any business in the state of Georgia.”
Coca-Cola Consolidated has 37 employees in Mount Airy, Patient said.
Goins said he was concerned that ban would adversely affect those employees.