FACT CHECK: Does Georgia Have A ‘Loophole’ That Allows Giving Non-Water Drinks To People Waiting In Line To Vote?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims Georgia’s new election law has a “loophole” that allows people to give non-water drinks such as soda and tea to voters in polling lines.

Verdict: False

There is no “loophole” in SB 202 that allows people to give non-water drinks to voters, though poll workers can set up self-service water stations for voters.

Fact Check:

Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed SB 202, also known as the Election Integrity Act of 2021, into law on March 25. The bill includes provisions that expand early voting for primary and general elections and implement new ID requirements for absentee voting, among other measures, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Since its passage, some social media users have been sharing an image claiming there is a “loophole” that allows people to give “iced tea, soda pop, kool ade, chocolate milk, mixed drinks, anything but ‘water’ to drink” to individuals in line to vote. The new law places restrictions on the distribution of food and beverages to people in line to vote within 150 feet of polling places or within 25 feet of any voter in line, according to The New York Times.

The “loophole” described in the image is not present in the law, however. Check Your Fact reviewed SB 202 and found the law clearly states no food or drink can be given to voters within 150 feet of the polling place or within 25 feet of voters waiting in line. Section 33, subsection A of the law reads:

“No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast: (1) Within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established; (2) Within any polling place; or (3) Within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.”

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office also confirmed to Check Your Fact via email that SB 202 prohibits anyone from giving water and other types of beverages to voters standing in line and that it does not have such a loophole.

Keith Williams, general counsel to Georgia State Speaker of the House David Ralston, told PolitiFact that “any individual other than a worker at a polling place is prohibited from handing out water, etc., within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of the line.” (RELATED: Does Georgia’s New Election Law Make It Illegal For A Grandchild To Drop Off A Grandparent’s Absentee Ballot?)

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger previously released a statement in December about cracking down on the practice of “line warming,” or giving gifts to voters in line at a polling place as a means to influence them. Raffensperger included food and beverage in his interpretation of “gifts,” though the law, OCGA § 21-2-570, did not specifically mention food or beverages.

SB 202 clarified the rules against “line warming” to more explicitly state that food and beverages, including water, are among “gifts” not allowed to be given to voters in line waiting to vote within 150 feet of the polling station, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

While people are not permitted to hand out food and beverages to voters in line within 150 feet of polling places or within 25 feet of other voters, Georgia law does allow polling places to set up self-service water stations for voters waiting in line, The Associated Press reported.

Section 33, subsection E of SB 202 reads, “This Code section shall not be construed to prohibit a poll officer from distributing materials, as required by law, which are necessary for the purpose of instructing electors or from distributing materials prepared by the Secretary of State which are designed solely for the purpose of encouraging voter participation in the election being conducted or from making available self-service water from an unattended receptacle to an elector waiting in line to vote.”

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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