Federal judge rules food and water can be handed out to voters waiting in line at polls

ATLANTA — A federal judge has upheld parts of Georgia’s Election Integrity Act and struck down others.

In 2021, the Georgia Legislature passed the controversial law, which, among other things, banned anyone from passing out food and water to anyone in voting lines.

The court ruled that provisions banning ballot harvesting and requiring security at absentee ballot boxes.

“The only person that can touch your absentee ballot is you, the voter, or a close family member of health caregiver. And anyone in-between would be ballot harvesting,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger explained. “It’s illegal if anyone else that’s not a family member, yourself or a healthcare giver touches that absentee ballot.”

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The judge did not fully agree with Georgia’s election law, in particular the portion banning the handing out of food and water to those waiting in line to vote.

The court ruled that food and water can be handed out to those in line as long as they are at least 150 feet from the polling place.

“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,” said Raffensperger.

Absentee voters had been required to put their date of birth on their ballot’s envelope. The court also struck that portion of the law down in what Raffensperger’s office calls a “broad reading of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”


“Today, in a misguided opinion, a federal judge ruled that using a voter’s date of birth to help verify that it is actually the voter who is returning the ballot violates the Civil Rights Act. Verifying that a voter who is not present is actually the person who cast the ballot is one of the most difficult and important things that local election officials are asked to do,” Raffensperger said.

He also adds that those who did not put their date of birth on the ballot would have the opportunity to correct the mistake before having their ballot rejected.

“With SB 202, Georgia enacted a series of provisions designed to make voting harder, especially for Black voters who are disproportionately more likely to endure unbearably long wait times at their polling sites across the state. The latest orders blocking some of these illegal barriers negatively impacting absentee and in-person voting are a critical step forward,” said John Cusick with the Legal Defense Fund.

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