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Is it legal to hand out food and water outside polling stations? – Salon

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It’s hard to believe that handing out food and water — the most basic of necessities — at polling places is considered illegal anywhere in the United States. But that’s the reality in Georgia, where a contentious law prohibits the distribution of food or water to voters at polling places statewide.
Georgia’s Election Integrity Act of 2021, which was signed into law by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) shortly after the 2020 presidential election, specifically restricts individuals other than poll workers from handing out “food or water to voters within 150 feet of the building or within 25 feet of the polling line.” The law also reduces the time to request a mail-in ballot, shortens the time of Georgia’s runoff elections by five weeks and requires more specific identification to request or return a ballot along with more changes.
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While most states have some restrictions on food and water distribution at or near polling places, only a select few can compare to Georgia’s strict rules.  
In Montana, it’s considered illegal if a family member of a candidate, a worker or volunteer for the candidate’s campaign distributes “alcohol, tobacco, food, drink, or anything of value to a voter within a polling place or a building in which an election is being held or within 100 feet of an entrance to the building in which the polling place is located.” However, individuals and organizations outside of those aforementioned groups are allowed to pass out food and water to voters, as long as they are in accordance with the state’s electioneering and soliciting guidelines.
New York has similar rules, particularly prohibiting “meat, drink, tobacco, refreshment or provision” unless it’s valued at less than $1 and distributed by individuals who don’t identify themselves to voters. 
Other states specifically ban serving and providing alcoholic beverages outside polling stations. Per the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), it is a misdemeanor in Minnesota to “bring intoxicating liquor or 3.2 percent malt liquor into a polling place, to drink intoxicating liquor or 3.2 percent malt liquor in a polling place, or to be intoxicated in a polling place.” Likewise, New Hampshire forbids “directly or indirectly providing ‘intoxicating liquor’ to voters with the intention of swaying votes,” per The Hill.
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Following its enactment, Georgia’s Election Integrity Act of 2021 has been challenged but to no avail. Back in March 2021, President Biden slammed the law, calling it an “atrocity” and saying in a statement, “This is Jim Crow in the 21st century. It must end.”
“If you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency, they passed a law saying you can’t provide water to people standing in line while they’re waiting to vote,” he continued. “You don’t need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting.”
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Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon, covering Culture and Food. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.
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