New Jersey Attempts to Poach Georgia's Film Business Amid Backlash to State's New Voting Law

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy
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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy sent a letter to major studios in an effort to lure projects to the state.

Georgia's potential loss could be New Jersey's gain. At least that's what the Garden State hopes.

Amid backlash to Georgia's newly passed voting law, New Jersey is attempting to poach business from the Peach State. On Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy sent a letter to some of the major studios, including Netflix, Disney and Warner Bros., condemning the election law, which ushers in more rigid voter restrictions like ID requirements for absentee voting, limiting the number of ballot drop boxes, and making it illegal to give food and water to voters in line.

"I’ve watched the recent decisions coming from the Georgia State House with disappointment. Restricting the right to vote is more than just wrong, it’s un-American," he wrote, in a letter obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. "These voting restrictions have thrust Georgia into the national spotlight, with the vast majority seeing the State’s decision as an attack on people of color by a Governor and Legislature willing to do anything to stay in power."

He then went on to sell them on the state's 30 percent tax credit on film projects, which is on par with Georgia's generous tax incentives, and also note a 40 percent subsidy for any brick-and-mortar studio development in the state. "Our new $14.5 billion economic incentive package makes the Garden State just as competitive as Georgia to attract film and television production businesses," he wrote, adding that there's ample opportunity for growth in New Jersey’s entertainment and production industries. "One thing is clear: when it comes to social policies, corporate responsibility, and — not to be overlooked — economic opportunity, New Jersey is now a top contender for your business." (The Wall Street Journal was the first to report Gov. Murphy's letter to the studios.)

Earlier this week, Murphy signed a law that authorizes nine days of early in-person voting for general elections. Georgia, however, currently allows for 17 days of early voting, according to Gov. Brian Kemp. "Congratulations to the state of New Jersey on now having 9 days of early voting!" Kemp tweeted to Murphy after the law passed. "Georgia has 17 mandatory days of early voting with two additional optional Sundays."

Kemp has maintained that Georgia's new law should give voters more confidence in the state's electoral system. "Governor Kemp has consistently said that he wants to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat. Thanks to his leadership as Secretary of State and now as Governor, elections in the Peach State are now more accessible and secure than most other states, including New Jersey," said his press secretary, Mallory Blount. "While New Jersey just passed a law with these reforms, Georgia already has online voter registration, automatic voter registration, and no excuse absentee balloting. We also have a minimum of 17 early voting days, while New Jersey only has 9."

Earlier Thursday, ViacomCBS became one of the first studios to clearly condemn the law. "We unequivocally believe in the importance of all Americans having an equal right to vote and oppose the recent Georgia voting rights law or any effort that impedes the ability to exercise this vital constitutional right," said the company. "Increasing voter access and civic engagement is one of ViacomCBS’ core social impact pillars and we will continue to educate the public on the importance of an open and fair voting system through our programming and extensive partnerships with grassroots organizations that promote and increase participation in elections."

Some in Hollywood, including Ford v Ferrari filmmaker James Mangold and Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, have called for a boycott of the state. But in a video posted to Twitter, voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams said there are better ways to protest the law. "To our friends across the country, please do not boycott us," she pleaded. "I understand the passion of those calling for boycotts of Georgia following the passage of SB 202. Boycotts have been an important tool throughout our history to achieve social change. But here's the thing: Black, Latino, AAPI and Native American voters whose votes are the most suppressed under SB 202 are also the most likely to be hurt by potential boycotts of Georgia."

Tyler Perry, who runs his own studio in Atlanta, said Tuesday that he hopes the Department of Justice takes action. "I’m resting my hope in the DOJ taking a hard look at this unconstitutional voter suppression law that harkens to the Jim Crow era," he said. As for pulling business from the state, he seemed to caution against it: "As some consider boycotting, please remember that we did turn Georgia blue and there is a gubernatorial race on the horizon — that’s the beauty of a democracy."