Of all the hundreds of voting suppression bills popping up across the country right now, one of the most nefarious is Georgia’s recently passed law that, among other things, makes it a misdemeanor to give water to voters waiting in line. Language was added to an existing law banning voter gifts that defines water as a gift, and thus a crime, no matter the circumstances or how long that voter stood in line. When I first heard this on CNN, I surely thought that was hyperbole or taken out of context. But no, it is completely true.
Election Day lines in Georgia are primarily found in Black and brown neighborhoods, where voters of color are expected to wait for more than 10 hours. This is by design: In Georgia, unlike other states, even if voters were standing in line all day, if they don’t make it inside by closing time, they aren’t allowed to vote using a regular ballot. Those voters get a provisional ballot; it most likely won’t be counted. The new law also allows voter intimidation, and penalizes those who show up at the wrong precinct. That’s bad enough. But please tell me how giving someone who is standing in line all day a bottle of water has anything to do with voter fraud??
The answer: absolutely nothing. Neither do the other 253 proposed voter suppression laws in 43 states which are flying through GOP-controlled legislatures. It’s not about fraud, of course, just stopping people of color, primarily Black people, from voting.
I’m so damn angry, I’ve planned a trip to Georgia next year to see my friend in Atlanta. He always hands out water to people in long voting lines, and said he’s not stopping. I’ve decided to join him. It’s now a crime, but we are doing it anyway. We don’t care. But that’s next year. In the meantime, there are other ways to fight this avalanche of voter suppression that may not involve handcuffs.