Offering Water and Snacks to Voters in Line May Be Outlawed in Georgia
Some people feel that the bill, which has already passed the Georgia State House, is a voter-supression tactic.
Georgia played a very important role in the 2020 presidential election; it was arguably the most unexpected state to flip blue. Then, two months later, Georgia's runoff elections decided who would have control of the Senate. After a contentious first Senate vote, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger spoke out against "line warming" in the lead up to the runoff election, discouraging people from offering voters free water or snacks to help them cope with long wait times.
At the time, the legality encouraging voting in a nonpartisan manner with freebies like water was considered a gray area in Georgia, but across the country, this kind of activity is relatively commonplace. The non-profit Pizza to the Polls has made headlines for having pizzas delivered to long voting lines, and in the last election, Chef José Andrés's non-profit World Central Kitchen launched a similar nationwide initiative called Chefs for the Polls.
But for future elections, some politicians in Georgia want to further clear up any ambiguities and clarify that interacting directly with voters this way is illegal. Previously, Raffensperger had stated that "soliciting votes within 150 feet of a polling location or within 25 feet of a voter standing in line" was against state law. But now, if passed, the amendment would update state law to include this additional clause: "nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector." A violation would constitute a misdemeanor.
"Why do we have to add in making it illegal to give a bottled water to someone?" Democratic Representative Patty Bentley—who voted against the bill in the Georgia State House where it ultimately passed —told 13WMAZ News. "If we're really not trying to suppress the vote, why are we even making giving water to someone an issue."
The bill now moves on to the Georgia State Senate, which has a 12-seat Republican majority. A spokesperson for the chamber told Newsweek that the bill still has to go through multiple committees before receiving a vote, which would occur on a still to-be-decided date.