Boycotts Can Moderate Georgia Voting Law
The bill closes that supposed loophole by equating refreshments to candidate literature, which can't be distributed to voters even if lines exceed the 150-foot electioneering boundary around each polling place.
States vary widely in how they regulate campaigning at the polls. A 1992 Supreme Court ruling, Burson v. Freeman, upheld bans on pressing the flesh and passing out literature -- an example of narrow "time, place and manner" restrictions on speech that the First Amendment otherwise protects.
While brochures are designed to influence voters, water bottles and snacks are meant only to keep them comfortable. Walter Shaub, who led the U.S. Office of Government Ethics during the Obama and Trump administrations, noted that voting in some minority precincts can be an endurance test.
"But we know who these politicians force to stand in line all day long," Shaub wrote in a Twitter post. "I've never once stood in line for even five minutes where I get to vote. This racism is thorough."
Although Senate Bill 202 allows voters to receive "self-service water from an unattended receptacle," the heavy-handed ban on refreshments has dominated news coverage, overshadowing other parts of the law. It strikes people as mean-spirited and petty.
Justifying it as a hedge against subtle influence-peddling or soft bribery simply doesn't pass the smell test in a state that allows candidates and officeholders to accept gifts worth $100 or less without reporting them as campaign contributions.
Legislators who dine on lobbyists' dime and consider themselves incorruptible but think we ordinary voters can be bought off for (literal) peanuts show profound disrespect to the people they represent.
In the one year House Bill 2 remained on the books, boycotts over North Carolina's bathroom bill cost the state an estimated $450 million to $630 million and at least 1,400 jobs, according to PolitiFact.
Georgia can expect equal or greater losses from its election law. Moderating the measure by repealing provisions like the "line-warming" ban could stop the bleeding. Will Georgia Republicans learn from North Carolina, or do they consider Election Day snacks a hill worth dying on?
Corey Friedman is an opinion journalist who explores solutions to political conflicts from an independent perspective. Follow him on Twitter @coreywrites. To find out more about Corey Friedman and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.