On Friday, Atlanta federal court Judge J.P. Boulee ruled that water and snacks can be given to voters standing in line for Georgia elections as long as they are 150 feet away from the polling location.
The court struck down a provision of the bill which prohibited campaigning activities, including handing out water and snacks, within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote no matter how far from the polling location they were.
Georgia law SB 202, also known as the Election Integrity Act of 2021, was enacted to protect the sanctity of Georgia elections by establishing rules for absentee drop boxes, banning ballot harvesting, and placing "restrictions on campaign activities and public opinion polling within the vicinity of a polling place."
Section 33 of the bill establishes a 150-foot zone around polling locations to prohibit partisan organizations from trying to sway voters who are in line. It also places a 25-foot zone around any voters who are standing in line.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) doesn't think the ruling will make much difference. “Due to the good work that both the state and county election officials have done to ensure short lines for voters, this decision should have limited effect,” he said in a statement.
"I am grateful that the ban on giving things of value to voters remains in place within 150 feet of the polling place. All voters should have the right to cast their vote in peace without being subject to potentially unwanted solicitations," Raffensperger added.
The ruling also upheld a provision that aims to ban ballot harvesting in the state. Raffensperger said, "The only person that can touch your absentee ballot is you, the voter, or a close family member or health caregiver. And anyone in-between would be ballot harvesting." He added, “It’s illegal if anyone else that’s not a family member, yourself, or a healthcare giver touches that absentee ballot.”
Democrats previously accused the Georgia Legislature of passing the bill to suppress the minority vote in the state. President Joe Biden said in a May 2021 statement about SB 202, "This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act. I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans to access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote."
The bill's purpose was to increase confidence in the Georgia election system. It reads, "Following the 2018 and 2020 elections, there was a significant lack of confidence in Georgia election systems, with many electors concerned about allegations of rampant voter suppression and many electors concerned about allegations of rampant voter fraud..."
It continues, "The changes made in this legislation in 2021 are designed to address the lack of elector confidence in the election system on all sides of the political spectrum, to reduce the burden on election officials, and to streamline the process of conducting elections in Georgia by promoting uniformity in voting."
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