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Florida lawmakers weigh bill banning handing out food, water within 150 feet of polling place

Florida state lawmakers are considering a bill that would bar people from distributing food or water to voters waiting to cast their ballots. 

Florida currently prohibits campaigning and solicitation within 100 feet of polling places. But the proposed legislation, H.B. 7041, would take that prohibition even further. It includes language that would make it a misdemeanor to give “or attempting to give any item” to any voter, while also punishing anyone “interacting or attempting to interact with any voter” within 150 feet of a voting site.

The Republican-backed bill was referred to the Florida House Appropriations Committee and State Affairs Committee last week after receiving a favorable recommendation from the state Public Integrity and Elections Committee in an 11-6 party-line vote. 

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The proposal somewhat resembles a provision in a newly signed law in Georgia making it a misdemeanor for third-party groups and other individuals to distribute food or water to voters waiting in line to cast their ballots — a practice known as “line warming.”

Under that law, poll workers are still allowed to bring water to people in line. 

Opponents of the practice say that distributing food or water to voters about to cast their ballots amounts to an inappropriate effort to influence or persuade voters. 

But the ban in Georgia has also ignited outrage among voting rights advocates, who say that passing out food or water to people helps keep them in the voting line. They point to the Georgia primaries last summer, which saw hours-long lines, especially in the predominantly Democratic Atlanta area. 

The proposal in Florida is part of a raft of legislation being considered by state lawmakers across the country in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS McConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS US raises concerns about Iran's seriousness in nuclear talks MORE has for months baselessly blamed widespread voter fraud and systemic irregularities for his loss in that election, despite the fact that officials have dubbed it the most secure election in U.S history.

Democrats have accused Republicans of seeking to rewrite voting laws to benefit the GOP after record voter turnout helped hand President BidenJoe BidenBiden taps California workplace safety leader to head up OSHA Romney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS US mulling cash payments to help curb migration MORE the White House.