Georgia Republicans Just Made It a Crime to Give Voters Snacks

It’s one ludicrous provision in an expansive voter reform bill just rushed through to the governor's desk.
March 25, 2021, 10:46pm
Voters wearing masks wait in line to vote early outside the Chatham County Board of Elections office in Savannah, Ga., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum)
Voters wearing masks wait in line to vote early outside the Chatham County Board of Elections office in Savannah, Ga., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum)

Providing water and food to voters waiting in long lines will soon be a misdemeanor in Georgia as part of a bigger GOP-backed voting-reform bill just signed into law by the governor.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed off on the expansive bill that was rushed through the Republican-controlled Legislature within hours, in the party’s efforts to prevent a Democratic takeover of the state in future elections, after the GOP’s historic defeat there last November.

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On Thursday afternoon, the House passed the 95-page bill dubbed the “Election Integrity Act,” that makes so-called “line warming”—giving food or drink to voters—illegal, among a rash of changes aimed at restricting voting. Just hours later, the state’s Republican-majority Senate voted to approve the bill as well. It comes after millions of mostly Black and brown voters brought Democrats to victory in the last two major elections.

“No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material,” the bill said. “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.”

The passage of Georgia’s bill marks one of the first GOP voter-suppression efforts successfully signed into law. Legislators in at least 42 other states have proposed hundreds of similar bills and provisions making it harder for the average citizen to vote.

Last November, volunteers and nonprofit organizations like Pizza to the Polls and Chefs for the Polls offered free meals to voters in lines and thereby contributed to historic turnouts. It was one of several efforts by local organizations and fair-election champions like Georgia’s own Stacey Abrams to facilitate voting.

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After losing the state for the first time in nearly three decades, Republicans in the Georgia state legislature have moved as quickly as possible to make sure that it never happens again. The Thursday’s vote was 100-75 in the House and 34-20 vote in the Senate.

Other election reforms proposed in the bill include unlimited challenges to voter registration and eligibility, granting local officials the right to replace election officials, and limiting the times that drop-off boxes for ballots are available to the public on early voting days. 

The bill would also rescind the secretary of state’s leadership position on the state board of elections, a likely reaction to current Georgia Secretary Of State Brad Raffensperger’s refusal to find the 11,000 former President Donald Trump needed to overturn his loss in the state last year, and prohibit counties from accepting donations from non-profit groups looking to expand the number of available voting locations.

This is one of two bills proposed by the state GOP. The other bill, passed by the state Senate earlier this month, proposes even more restrictions, including the end of no-excuse mail-in voting and stricter voter ID requirements. 

Last November in Georgia, President Donald Trump lost the presidential election to Joe Biden by more than 11,000 votes, marking the first Democratic victory of the state since 1992. Biden’s victory was followed up by two Senate runoff election victories by Democratic challengers Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in January.