Georgia Water Ban for Voters Disputed in Court

Atlanta (AP) —Voting Rights Group Becomes Judge on Monday New Georgia law It’s not necessarily the most important thing, but it’s certainly the most angry. Distributing food and water to voters waiting in line is prohibited.

The ban includes dozens of changes to state voting law, including faster time to request postal voting, rollback of pandemic-led expansion of ballot drop boxes, and reduction of early voting before final voting. It’s just part of the 98-page bill.

But it’s probably the most understandable and what critics call it particularly disciplinary. The group argues that it illegally violates the right to freedom of speech and should be immediately stopped, even before a broader proceeding that challenges other areas of the law is brought to justice. did.

Judge JP Boulee of the US District Court did not immediately rule on the request for a provisional injunction.

State lawyers described the provision as “bright lines” drawn to prevent circus-like situations around polling stations. This can add to concerns about the possibility of illegal campaigns and voting purchases. terrible. “

The U.S. Department of Justice has also filed a proceeding He tried to overturn Senate Bill 202 and claimed to be racist, but was not among the groups seeking an injunction on Monday.

The hearing took place just months before the narrowly politically divided states held a fiercely contested election in November. Democratic Stacey Abrams challenges incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp, and Republican Herschel Walker is about to dismiss incumbent Democratic US Senator Raphael Warnock.

The state argued that, under a previous court decision, it was too late for Boury to make changes to the November elections. Plaintiffs cited several examples of changes made by the eve of the election.

Many Democrats Promise to Roll Back Senate Bill 202 While protecting the election results from attacks.Republicans insist on smooth voting in May primary With relatively high turnout and short lines The new law has shown that it does not limit voting. However, opponents have warned that the law will hurt voters who have been marginalized. The effects they say will be even more apparent in November.

In that context, on Monday, the group called on Boury to block a ban on food and drink known as “line relief” or “line warming,” and said it violated the right to free speech to encourage people to vote. rice field.

Davin Rossborough, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “The meaning is well understood in the community where plaintiffs provide it.”

He said Georgia was “independent” as the only state to ban and criminalize this practice.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s Ronda Briggins, a group of her historic African-Americans, provided food and water to voters in previous elections, but ceased operations when new legislation was passed. Said.

“We’ve been doing that for years,” Briggins said. “It’s about encouraging people to line up. We are cheerleaders.”

However, state witnesses claimed that such activities went out of control in the 2020 elections, and apparently partisan groups offered elaborate food and other commodities. Matt Mashburn, a member of the State Election Commission, a Republican voting observer, not only provided food for the Democratic Party in early voting, but also dominated the constituencies outside the polling place in Cobb County. He said he had witnessed it.

“My reaction to that is that we have completely lost control of the constituency,” Mashburn said. .. “

The judge hypothetically asked if it was acceptable for the group to give voters steak.

“Is it a bottle of water because someone is thirsty, or is it a bottle of Gatorade to determine control of the US Senate?” Boury asked.

The plaintiff said that elections within 150 feet (45 meters) of the polling place are illegal before and after the new law, as well as giving someone something of value in exchange for voting, and the state is an inappropriate campaign. Said that those laws should be enforced to prevent.

They also argued that Georgia could have been able to adjust its law more narrowly by limiting the value of what it could give voters. However, Ryan Germany, the chief lawyer for Secretary of State Brad Rafence, said that forcing police to see if gifts were illegally tied to voting or if people were illegally campaigning. He said it was a “tricky proposal” that depended on the facts of each case.

The state argued that a complete ban would make the job of voting workers easier.

“It’s a brilliant rule,” said lawyer Gene Schaerr. “You don’t have to decide how much you have.”


Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter.