FACT CHECK: Are There Laws That Criminalize Giving Food And Drinks To Voters In Line At The Polls?

Check Your Fact Staff | Contributor

The Republican National Committee (RNC) claimed Vice President Kamala Harris lied when she said laws that criminalize giving food and drinks to voters in line at the polls are “being passed.”

Verdict: Misleading

At least one state, Georgia, has passed a law that makes it illegal to give out food and water to people waiting in line to vote. 

Fact Check:

The RNC posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Harris was lying when she claimed laws criminalizing offering people in line to vote food and drinks are being passed. 

The caption reads, “Kamala Harris can’t stop lying: ‘Can you believe that laws are being passed that make it LITERALLY illegal to give someone food and water while they’re standing in line to vote?'”

However, Harris’s claim has basis. A Harris spokesperson pointed Check Your Fact to an article from 11Alive about Georgia’s SB 202 election law overhaul, which was passed in 2021. 

“The law makes it a misdemeanor to give away food or water within 150 feet of the outer edge of a polling place building or within 25 feet of any voter in line. Voters can bring their own food and refreshments with them to stand in line. Poll workers can make available ‘self-service water from an unattended receptacle to an elector waiting in line to vote,'” 11 Alive reported.

Other outlets, such as CNN, have indicated that it is illegal to give food and water to voters at the polls. Check Your Fact reported in 2021 that SB 202 does prohibit offering voters food or drink within 150 feet of the voting place.

The law read (in 2021):

“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.”

Experts told Check Your Fact that Harris’s claim was correct.

Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School, referenced SB 202 in an email to Check Your Fact and pointed to the provision that states “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.”

“The law was challenged. I believe the last part — within 25 feet of the voter — was enjoined, but the first part (within 150 feet of a building) was sustained,” Briffault said.

Michael Morley, law professor at Florida State University, also mentioned the Georgia law to Check Your Fact via phone call. 

“It’s currently illegal within 150 feet of a polling place to give food or water to a voter in Georgia,” Morley said. 

Peter Shane, a law professor at The Ohio State University, said the RNC’s claim was wrong in an email to Check Your Fact. He pointed to an August 2023 CNN report about a federal judge pausing enforcement of SB 202’s provision of prohibiting the provision of food or drink within 25 feet of voters standing in line, but upholding other parts of the law. 

Georgia courts have continued to uphold the law, according to the Georgia’s Secretary of State’s office. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in the press release that a Georgia court upheld the election law in an August 2023 court ruling.  (RELATED: Does Video Show Explosion At Francis Scott Key Bridge?)

Check Your Fact reached out to a RNC spokesperson for comment and will update this article if a response is provided.

Anna Mock, Joseph Caiseri and Elias Atienza contributed to this report.

Check Your Fact Staff