Federal judge to decide on legality of handing out water, food to voters waiting in line at polls

ATLANTA — A federal court judge could soon decide if Georgia’s ban on passing out food and water to people waiting in voting lines is unconstitutional.

A hearing was held Monday to take up the issue.

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot learned Monday that Georgia’s Secretary of State is promising to defend that law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue dates back to the June presidential 2020 primary. Channel 2 Action News was out at the Fanplex polling place in southeast Atlanta, where a line stretched around the block, and it was a sweltering day.

Elliot saw groups passing out water and snacks to voters and encouraging them to stay in line.

More than six months later, the Georgia Legislature passed the controversial Election Integrity Act, which, among other things, banned anyone from passing out food and water to anyone in voting lines.

Republican lawmakers worried that it ventured dangerously close to illegal electioneering and could be abused by certain groups who could use that loophole to campaign for their candidates.


Now, a coalition of voter advocacy groups is in federal court to ask a judge to declare the ban unconstitutional.

Hannah Gebresi-Lassie was at Monday’s hearing. She helped groups pass out water before.

“As far as the lines itself, we are very careful about that because no one wants to get into trouble trying to help somebody get water or food,” Gebresi-Lassie said.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement that he would defend that part of the law “all the way to the US Supreme Court if I have to. Here in Georgia we verify citizenship, require photo ID and ensure that voters are not bothered while they are in line to vote.”

Gebresi-Lassie insisted they were just trying to do the right thing on a hot summer day.

“We believe in serving the people. We believe in humanity. We believe in integrity, and that looks like being allowed to hand someone a bottle of water on a 98-degree day,” Gebresi-Lassie said.

We expect the judge will announce a decision on the case in the next few weeks.