Court Battles

Judge upholds ban on distributing food or drinks near Georgia polling sites while legal disputes continue

FILE - Voters stand in a line as they wait to vote early on Oct. 19, 2020, in Athens, Ga.
(AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
FILE – Voters stand in a line as they wait to vote early on Oct. 19, 2020, in Athens, Ga. Lawyers on Monday, July 18, 2022, asked a federal judge to block Georgia’s 2021 ban on giving gifts including food and water to voters waiting in line. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

A federal judge denied a preliminary injunction motion on Thursday that sought to block a Georgia election law that bans people from distributing food and drinks to voters waiting in line. 

U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee said the upcoming November elections are too close to make a change at this point. 

The law, which Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed in March 2021, includes providing food and drinks to people in line in a section on electioneering and compares doing so to providing them gifts.

Supporters of the law have said it is designed to prevent vote solicitation and influencing, but opponents have said it could potentially suppress Black votes, as Black voters often wait in long lines on Election Day to vote in the state. 

The law forbids providing food or water to voters within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of a voter standing in line. 

Boulee did take issue with the ban on providing food or water within 25 feet of a voter because it can fluctuate based on the position of the voter and has no limit. He said in his ruling that this provision could in practice extend thousands of feet away from a polling place, based on documented hours-long lines that some locations have experienced. 

Boulee ruled that the plaintiffs are not “substantially likely” to succeed on the merits of their argument that the 150-foot ban is unconstitutional, but they are likely to succeed that the 25-foot ban is unconstitutional. 

A group of four civic organizations had challenged the law.

Tags Brian Kemp Election law food and drink ban Georgia Georgia election law polling places preliminary injunction
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