The Florida GOP does not want to be outdone by Georgia. Republicans in the Sunshine State also want to ban giving out food and drinks to voters near a polling place. And then some.
The proposed H.B. 7041 expands that distance to 150 feet and includes prohibited activity giving out food and drinks. The law would prohibit giving any item to voters or interacting with them within the specified area.
Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, called on Florida residents to contact their elected officials in opposition of the bill.
Under current state law, individuals or campaigns cannot engage in partisan activity within 100 feet of a polling location. H.B. 7041 bears a striking similarity to the recently passed voter suppression law in Georgia.
Florida Republicans rely on the same false rhetoric of simply wanting to “improve” the system of elections. But measures introduced do not enhance election integrity or voter access.
In addition to the ban on handing out food and drinks within 150 feet of a polling location, H.B. 7041 limits the use of drop boxes and adds additional ID requirements for mail voting among other things. There is also a measure that would require the public to witness a signature match verification process, which raises concerns about transparency and potential identity theft.
Ahead of Georgia’s Senate runoff elections in January, Georgia’s secretary of state compared “line warming” to prohibited partisan activity, claiming that those who took part in such actions — “warming up the people in line to your position as you give them free pizza, for example” — could be guilty of a felony.
Giving out comfort items has become a part of civic engagement and get-out-the-vote activities for non-partisan groups across the country. While federal law prohibits giving or receiving something of value for casting or withholding a vote, the practice of line warming often is done in support of anyone in the vicinity of a polling location, not just voters.
Providing comfort to those waiting in long lines is as much about encouraging civic engagement in communities impacted by long lines as it is about providing comfort to those waiting.
National efforts to supply food and drinks to voters, like Pizza to the Polls and Chefs For the Polls led by celebrity chef José Andrés, are not contingent upon voting or belonging to a particular political party.
In a recent statement posted on Twitter, Pizza to the Polls reaffirmed its commitment to “delivering food to people participating in civic life, no matter their political affiliation.” The organization recently expanded its effort to serve vaccination sites with long lines.
Instead of addressing the long lines and issues with poll closures and consolidations, Republicans are taking aim at a nonpartisan civic engagement activity. By comparing nonpartisan civic engagement activities and political campaign efforts, Republicans are conceding they view voting rights, civic engagement, and by extension democracy as a partisan effort.