Court upholds ban on handing out water at polls
As Georgians prepare to go to the polls in November, they do so under a new Georgia election law the Republican-dominated General Assembly passed last year that prohibits the distribution of food and drinks to voters waiting in line.
Late Thursday, a federal judge decided the restrictions should remain in place for the November election. In his 74-page order, Boulee upheld part of a Georgia law that bans providing food or water to voters within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter standing in line.
U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee rejected a request for a preliminary injunction overturning the restrictions contained in the election law, in part because Boulee found it was too close to the November election to make a change, but leaves open that part of the ban may be overturned later.
Voting rights advocates expressed disappointment with Boulee’s ruling on Friday, but they vowed to keep fighting the law. In his ruling, Boulee said voting rights groups had failed to demonstrate the ban on food and drink within 150 feet of a polling place is unconstitutional. He said nothing in the law prohibits groups from verbally encouraging voters to stay in line, assisting elderly and disabled voters to the front of the line, or directing voters to self-service water receptacles that poll workers can provide.
Given the long lines some Georgia voters have experienced, many feel the judges’ rulings were insensitive to voters. Boulee’s ruling is the latest to uphold various aspects of the Georgia election law. He previously upheld the law’s limits on advocacy organizations’ mass mailings of absentee ballot application forms to voters and a requirement that voters request absentee ballots at least 11 days before election day. With this ruling, nearly all of the law’s provisions in the elections bill will be in effect for this year’s elections. Currently, other lawsuits against the election law are still pending.