Georgia Republicans want to make it a crime to give food, drinks to voters in line

HB 531, which passed Georgia's House, doesn't specify whether refreshments can be sold to waiting voters. But giving them food? No.

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Georgia House Bill 531, which passed the southern state’s House of Representatives earlier this month, is being called out for its horrific new voting restrictions. 

Attorney Walter Shaub, who is the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, clarified the bill on Twitter earlier this month, writing, as part of a greater thread that began with local reporting and his response to it: “‘Lawmakers in 43 states are considering over 250 bills that would create impediments to voting.’ This is a threat to (the) republic and should be the top story for every news outlet. Democracy itself is under attack.” 

This photo from March 3 shows demonstrators outside of the Georgia Capitol building in Atlanta protesting to oppose the HB 531 bill, which will add controversial voting restrictions to the state’s upcoming elections. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

“Georgia’s bill would make it a crime to give free food or water to voters standing in line for hours and hours,” Shaub wrote. “But we know who these politicians forced to stand in line all day long. I’ve never once stood in line for even five minutes where I get to vote. This racism is thorough.” 

HB 531 passed the House vote 97-72.

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The lengthy bill does indeed say that giving free food or drinks to voters waiting in line would result in a misdemeanor charge: “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.”

It adds the food and drink can not be given out “within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established, within any polling place, or within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.” 

The bill does not specify whether food or drinks can be sold to people waiting in line.

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Critics are blasting Georgia Republicans for creating major election reform bills that could cost taxpayers millions and will ultimately make it harder to cast a vote in the state. Their actions follow the “the big lie” of voter fraud that spread after the 2020 presidential election. 

Georgia’s Republican-controlled General Assembly adjourns on March 31 so has five more legislative workdays on its calendar. Changes are reportedly being made to HB 531, but it is expected to pass the state’s Republican-led state senate.

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