Ossoff introduces bill to roll back Georgia law on giving voters water

Democratic U.S. Senate challenger Jon Ossoff puts on his "I'm a Georgia voter" sticker after voting in the runoff election Tuesday morning, Dec. 22, 2020 at the Metropolitan Library in Southwest Atlanta. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

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Democratic U.S. Senate challenger Jon Ossoff puts on his "I'm a Georgia voter" sticker after voting in the runoff election Tuesday morning, Dec. 22, 2020 at the Metropolitan Library in Southwest Atlanta. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff introduced a bill Monday to prohibit states like Georgia from banning volunteers from distributing food and water to voters waiting in line.

The legislation is a response to Georgia’s new voting law, which makes it a crime for volunteers and organizations to give out refreshments as they did during last year’s primary election, when lines in some areas lasted over three hours.

Though Georgia’s law restricts volunteers from handing out food and water, it allows poll workers to set up self-service water receptacles.

ExploreHow Georgia’s voting law works

“This is about decency — basic decency. This is about the health and well-being of a senior citizen who’s being made to wait six hours in line to vote and allowing a volunteer to hand that senior citizen a bottle of water without facing up to a year in jail,” Ossoff said during a press conference on Zoom.

Ossoff said his proposal could be incorporated into a bill known as S.1, a sweeping election, redistricting and campaign finance bill that already passed the U.S. House and is pending in the U.S. Senate. His legislation is similar to a bill introduced last month by U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, a Democrat who represents Atlanta.

Volunteers would be able to provide food and water as long as they’re not engaging in political activity and they offer it to every voter, according to Ossoff’s bill.

Republicans who backed Georgia’s voting law said it will prevent attempts to influence voters at the polling place.

The law bans distributing food and drinks to voters within 150 feet of the outer edge of a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter standing in line. Violations are punishable as a misdemeanor, which comes with up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.