Gwinnett solicitor says he won’t prosecute people who hand out food, water in voting lines

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A Gwinnett County official announced this week he will not prosecute people who hand out food or water to people waiting in line to vote as long as they are doing it in a non-partisan way.

The new Georgia voting law makes it a misdemeanor to hand out food or water to voters in line within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter at a polling site.

But Gwinnett County Solicitor General Brian Whiteside told Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes that he sees no criminal basis for prosecuting someone.

“When you think about this law, you would have to put someone in handcuffs and then you would have to confiscate the bottle of water. Subpoena the person getting the water, show up in court and say ‘Your Honor, I’m here for someone being arrested for giving a bottle of water. Exhibit A, bottle of water.’ How stupid are these people making the laws?” Whiteside said.

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Lawmakers who wrote the law said they are trying to make Georgia elections as fair as possible. Opponents however claim it’s a voter suppression tactic.

Before Senate Bill 202 became law, campaign signs and people holding them had to be at least 150 feet away from the polling place. With the new law, people handing out water and food have to be at least 150 feet away too.

[READ: EXPLAINER: What does Georgia’s new GOP election law do?]

Whiteside remembered a Gwinnett election where voters stood in line in unbearable heat for hours. He said volunteers of all backgrounds handed out non-partisan snacks and water with no issues.

“And if you measure the asphalt, sometimes it was 120 degrees on the asphalt last year. People were being humane. This is humanity! It is inhumane to have put a law out like that,” he said.

Fernandes reached out to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office to ask if they would override Whiteside and prosecute those cases.

A state board of elections official said if they get a complaint, they will investigate it and that could result in prosecution.

Fernandes also reached out to the district attorney’s office, but has not heard back as of Tuesday evening.

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