Georgia lawmaker who gave voters in line pizza fined for reentering polling place

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

A state representative — and Democratic candidate for insurance commissioner — was fined $250 for entering his voting precinct on Election Day in 2018 to give pizza to voters standing in line.

An investigation by the State Board of Elections found that state Rep. Matthew Wilson, a Brookhaven Democrat, entered his polling place at Cross Keys High School on Nov. 6, 2018, to pass out pizza to voters who were standing in line.

Wilson was ordered to pay a $250 fine, not to repeat the offense and to be publicly reprimanded. The board approved the consent order on Tuesday.

Giving away food and water to weary voters became commonplace in precincts with hours-long lines during the last few elections, when volunteers and voting organizations encouraged people to endure delays to ensure their ballots counted.

“The situation in 2018 is a good example of why I will continue fighting the root causes of voter suppression that lead to hour-long lines in places like DeKalb County,” Wilson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Then a first-time candidate, Wilson had already voted during the 2018 early voting period, according to a settlement agreement between Wilson and the board. State law bars candidates from entering their voting precinct once he or she has already voted.

During a February hearing, Wilson’s attorney, Jeremy Berry, said the candidate did not try to solicit votes or do anything improper.

“Mr. Wilson asked for permission (to distribute pizza), received the permission, walked back out to his car after receiving the permission from the poll manager, and then delivered four pizzas that were handed out in a matter of minutes,” Berry said.

Georgia’s new voting law passed earlier this year bans distributing refreshments to waiting voters, a measure supported by Republican lawmakers who said voting lines should be protected from outside influence. The law allows poll workers to set up self-service water receptacles.