Georgia’s U.S. Senators are doubling down on their narrative about the importance of the availability of water for voters who are standing in line at the polls.
Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock introduced the Voters’ Access to Water Act on Monday, which seeks to “protect voters’ access to water when they are made to wait in line outside polling places.”
The legislation is in response to Georgia’s enactment of Senate Bill 202, which overhauled the state election laws following the contentious and disputed election cycle in 2020. SB 202 makes it a misdemeanor offense to give a gift to voters standing in line, including food and drinks. The provision is a crackdown on campaigning and political activity which was occurring as voters waited to cast ballots.
Opponents of the bill have harshly criticized the legislation, saying it is immoral and inhumane to make it illegal to give another individual water. SB 202, however, includes a provision which allows local voting precincts to make ‘self-service’ water stations available for voters who may not have brought their own. You can read a full breakdown of SB 202 here.
But Warnock and Ossoff do not believe the permissive language goes far enough to protect voters, prompting the legislation filed this week. In a press release, Ossoff and Warnock cited long wait times as the absolute necessity for the legislation, giving examples from Atlanta and other metropolises where voters waited upwards of 10 hours to cast a ballot. The pair cited polling which suggests that “Black voters in Georgia face disproportionately longer lines than white voters.”
The Voters’ Access to Water Act would prohibit states from banning the provision of food or water to voters waiting in line as long as volunteers providing food or water do not engage in campaigning or political activity and as long as water or food are offered to every voter in line.(emphasis added) The changes would be made to the 2002 Help America Vote Act.
“Georgia voters are often made to wait hours in line to vote. This bill will ensure a nonpartisan, Good Samaritan volunteer can offer voters in line a bottle of water without fear of criminal prosecution,” Senator Ossoff said.
“Voting rights are preservative of all other rights. We must do everything in our power to expand access to the ballot box, and eliminate any and all barriers that will make it harder for voters in Georgia and nationwide to make their voices heard,” Senator Warnock said. “The Voters’ Access to Water Act gets us closer to that goal, and I’m proud to work with Senator Ossoff to get this important legislation, along with the critical For the People Act, over the finish line.”
The legislation has the backing of Fair Fight Action Founder and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abram as well as Trevor Potter, President of the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and Republican former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission.
Since being signed into law by Governor Kemp in March, SB 202 has prompted five lawsuits.
You can read the legislation by Ossoff and Warnock below.