“People immediately said to us, ‘This is amazing, I can stay in line now. I don’t have to fetch food or feed my children who are with me, ”Mook told the Washington Post. “We’ve heard that pretty often, actually.”

These days could be numbered for WCK and other humanitarian groups. One of the provisions of the Georgian Re-Election Act is one that prohibits “any person” – not just politicians, volunteer campaigners, or political nonprofits that might seek to influence the vote – from distributing food or drink to residents waiting to see them it’s their turn. The law states that those wishing to offer refreshments on election days cannot be within 150 feet of a polling station or within 25 feet of “a voter standing in line”.

According to PolitiFact, violating the law is “punishable by up to one year in prison and fined $ 1,000”. Not long after Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed the electoral law in March, President Biden issued a statement saying that the new law “makes it a crime to provide water to voters while they are in.” Queuing – lines Republican officials themselves created by reducing the number of polling stations across the state, disproportionately in black neighborhoods. “

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But voting surveillance groups have already formed an opinion on how the food and drink restrictions will affect Georgian voters in future elections: they say the move will hurt low-income voters who are in tune with their children at the start of mealtime stand and sometimes go. They say the rules will also have a negative impact on residents of metropolitan Atlanta, where voter rolls have risen (4 out of 5 new voters were ignorant, according to an NPR report), even if polling stations haven’t.

Other changes to Georgia’s electoral law, such as voter ID requirements and a shorter time window for requesting postal ballot papers, could lengthen the queues at polling stations, says Bob Brandon, president of the Fair Elections Center, a Washington-based organization promoting impartial voting rights and electoral reform. This could be especially the case in black neighborhoods, where residents tend to vote in person. (The Georgian Foreign Minister’s office said waiting times averaged 3 minutes on election day in November and 2 minutes during the January runoff.)

“The lines will be longer than they would have been if they hadn’t made these changes,” said Brandon. “We just don’t know how long that means. … But we know that there are always places all over the country with long lines, and in these circumstances people are more reluctant to wait. “

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Anecdotally, activists say that groups like World Central Kitchen, Pizza to the Polls, and other nonprofits are helping to solve some of the problems that cause voters to flee a line on a hot Georgia day: They cater to the elderly Water. They feed children who might otherwise get grumpy. They even create a sense of community, says Mook of World Central Kitchen. Residents could ask the non-profit organization founded by chef and humanitarian aid worker José Andrés about the restaurant where tacos were made that day, for example. The conversations alleviate boredom and create a sense of engagement, says Mook.

“José firmly believes that our elections should be a celebration, that democracy in America shouldn’t be a challenge, not a hassle,” Mook said. “It should be a national holiday.”

Georgian lawmakers added the new restrictions to fill what some Republican lawmakers called a loophole in the current law, which did not specifically prohibit politicians or political organizations from distributing food and drink to residents waiting for them Series come. Georgia state law had prohibited politicians and the like from giving money or gifts to voters, a practice known as “line warming,” which can be a form of bribery or campaigning. However, the new regulations go further and prevent people within the designated buffer zones, including non-profit organizations whose mission is humanitarian, from distributing food and drink.

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“We are disappointed that it can be more difficult to feed people and reduce the burden of long lines when they participate in civic activities,” wrote Amirah Noaman, program director for Pizza to the Polls, a nonprofit that coordinates pizza deliveries and organizes food trucks for the voters.

“Ultimately, the problem is that there are primarily long lines and that eliminating those queues should take precedence over removing the ability to distribute food and drink,” Noaman added in the email.

Other states also have restrictions on eating and drinking, but they are generally more flexible than Georgia. For example, in Montana, only a “candidate, family member of a candidate, or worker or volunteer for the candidate’s campaign” is prohibited from distributing food, drinks or valuables to voters on election days. New York State also prohibits the distribution of food and drink to voters unless the “meat, drink, tobacco, refreshment, or supply” has a value of less than a dollar.

The Georgian restrictions have “very little to do with the concern that is being expressed: that people are voting around the polling station,” said Brandon of the Fair Elections Center. “I think it has more to do with just a whole bunch of ideas that some lawmakers had: ‘Well, this will go well in preventing votes in certain communities with typically longer queues.’ And usually it’s in the color communities. “

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Ari Schaffer, spokesman for Georgian Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger, said the office had “seen increased problems with candidates or political groups … giving away food and drink as an end to Georgian laws banning election campaigns near a polling station over the past year.” , and those who forbid giving gifts as an incentive to vote. “

Schaffer said the new law allows groups to donate water to an election officer who can then distribute it to voters. “Groups that feel they need credit to provide refreshments to people can continue to do so as long as they are 150 feet from a building that houses a polling station and 25 feet from a voting line, and as long as they provide refreshments for everyone regardless of whether they choose or not, “Schaffer said in a statement to the Washington Post.

But World Central Kitchen’s Mook said he feared the rules are so broad and potentially confusing that authorities may not know how to enforce them. Instead, he fears that the authorities will only tell the organizations that they are not allowed to distribute refreshments. Mook said World Central Kitchen had an experience of being evicted from a Georgia polling station – and that was before the law went into effect.

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“We were told, ‘You can’t be here’ even if we weren’t right on the property,” Mook said. “Because people didn’t necessarily understand the differences between what we could do and, for example, an actual effort for the election worker.”