- The Washington Times
Monday, March 29, 2021

The new Georgia election law allows polling places to provide water to voters in addition to permitting those casting a ballot to bring their own liquid refreshments, an election official tells The Washington Times.

The Republican-backed election reform bill has been ridiculed by Democrats and media allies as banning water.

“It’s now illegal in Georgia to give food and water to voters in line,” a CNN headline proclaimed. 

What the new law does is prohibit political activists and candidates from trying to influence in-line electors by plying them with “food and drink” as happened in November.

This is because, the election official told The Times, “Already in November there were cases of candidates handing out water to voters in line, food trucks giving out food or selling it wrapped in campaign flyers and other instances of trying to influence voters. But even some poll managers looked the other way because it was only water or snacks. “

Because of the handouts, this language was adopted:

“No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, 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, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast.”

But the law also makes clear that the polling place can provide self-serve water dispensers. 

The section says, “This Code section shall not be construed to prohibit a poll officer from distributing materials, as required by law, which are necessary for the purpose of instructing electors or from distributing materials prepared by the Secretary of State which are designed solely for the purpose of encouraging voter participation in the election being conducted or from making available self-service water from an unattended receptacle to an elector waiting in line to vote.” 

The rules cover voters and activists within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of voters in line. 

The election official said, “Existing law here prohibited giving anything of value to someone, but there were so many instances of people and groups giving water that the legislature felt it necessary to clarify. Voters can bring their own water, and anyone can donate water for the county to distribute still.”

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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