Florida aiming to follow Georgia in banning food and drink being given to queueing voters

Following in the steps of Georgia, Florida is now considering a law that would bar people from handing out food and water within 150 feet of a polling location.

There already is a ban on the books in Florida that prohibits campaigning and solicitation within 100 feet of voting places. HB 7041 would expand that ban to include giving or even trying to give “any item” to a voter, or “interacting or attempting to interact with any voter” within 150 feet of a polling place.

The proposed bill has similarities to the law recently signed by Georgia governor Brian Kemp. A provision in the legislation makes it a misdemeanour for third-party groups or individuals to hand out food and water to people in line, but poll workers would still be allowed to distribute water.

Giving food and water to those waiting to vote is known as “line warming” and some of those who oppose said it’s an undue influence on voters. Voting rights advocates say it’s a way to keep people in line especially when the lines are hours long, such as in the mostly Democratic Atlanta area during the Georgia primaries, The Hill reported.

The Florida bill pushed by Republicans was sent on to the Florida House Appropriations Committee and State Affairs Committee after being voted through by the Public Integrity and Elections Committee on a party-line basis, 11-6.

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The Georgia law sparked outrage as it was seen as an attempt by Republicans to claw back control and restrict the voting rights of heavily Democratic demographics, such as African Americans. This comes after Georgia shocked the nation and largely turned from red to blue on the national level with Joe Biden winning the state in November and Democrats taking over both senate seats in runoffs on 5 January.

Republicans, many of whom are still holding on to former President Donald Trump’s “big lie” that the election was “stolen”, and are using it to put forward laws restricting voting rights on the state level across the country.

306 bills that would restrict voting rights are being considered in state legislatures. 89 per cent of those bills are “sponsored entirely or primarily by Republicans,” FiveThirtyEight writes.

The four states with the most voting restrictions bills filed, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania, were some of the closest in November’s presidential election and they all went for Joe Biden. The last time a Democrat won a presidential race in Georgia was in 1992 and in Arizona it last happened in 1996. Both times they were won by Bill Clinton, who rose to national prominence as the young governor of Arkansas, a state which also hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since their own native son was re-elected to the presidency in 1996.

The Independent has reached out to the Republican Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives for comment.

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