No, Delaware does not prohibit meals or water in elections like Georgia does

A reader asked us about this statement after the Georgia governor signed legislative amendments to the electoral process that President Biden quickly condemned. “It is a crime to provide water to voters while they stand in line,” the president said in a statement.

But Sterling argued that the provision was “actually the law” in Biden’s home state of Delaware.

The facts

There were often long queues during the elections in Georgia, especially in predominantly black districts. Food and water would be distributed while people stood in line. New Georgian law makes this illegal if that assistance is within 150 feet of the building where the vote is taking place.

“No person may solicit votes in any way or in any way or by any method, nor may he distribute or display campaign material, nor may any person give, offer or give money or gifts, including but not limited to food and drink, to any one Voters, nor may a person seek signatures on a petition, nor may any person other than election officials performing their duties, set up tables or booths, or set up tables or booths on a day that ballots are cast: (1) Within 150 Foot from the outside edge of a building that houses a polling station; (2) within a polling station; or within 25 feet of a voter standing in line to vote at a polling station. “

However, the law added that poll workers were not prohibited “from providing self-service water from an unattended container to a voter standing in line to vote.”

When we first looked up the Delaware Electoral Code, the only relevant section we saw was about bribery. We didn’t see any specific reference to water or food. Here is this passage, 3167:

“Whoever receives, accepts or offers to receive or accept or pay, transfer or deliver, or pay, transfer or deliver offers or promises, or make contributions or offers, or make contributions, in this state or outside this state afford to pay or use money or other valuable items to another as compensation, incentive, or reward for giving or withholding, or in any way that affects the giving or withholding of a vote in a primary election for the purpose of selecting delegates or to be held representative of a political convention held thereafter to select candidates for public office or to select delegates to a national political convention held thereafter to nominate candidates for president and vice-president of the United States will be fined at least US 100 th llar and no more than $ 5,000 or detained for at least one month and no more than three years, or both. “

When we called Sterling asking for an explanation, he sent The Fact Checker text messages stating that Delaware’s Section 3167 is similar to Georgian law.

“It’s really just about giving or receiving something of value in return for the vote, which was already illegal in Georgia,” he said. “The problem with eating and drinking is that we’ve gotten a lot of complaints that it was being treated as an end to this law and as a polling station campaign. While not being used that way (and sometimes), it made the polls feel that the food / drink was something in return for voting. “

According to Sterling, officials believed they needed to “draw a light line,” adding, “This gift of food and water wasn’t just that. People brought food trucks to come out and vote. “He noted that volunteers” can still set up tables with water or snacks. You can donate them to counties so workers can distribute them. “

Sterling said the state had previously quoted people as “who made giveaways for” I voted for stickers “and also” made a raffle for a turkey. “” He also argued that the problem of lines was addressed with apps, the wait times track so voters “can better manage them” in the 16 days leading up to the vote.

Delaware law, however, is nowhere near as specific as other state laws. There is certainly no mention of food or water as a possible bribe.

For example, Montana mentions food and drink given out by supporters of candidates. “On election day, a candidate, family member of a candidate, or a worker or volunteer for the candidate’s campaign may not distribute alcohol, tobacco, food, drink or any valuables to a voter in a polling station or building in which an election is being held or in one A radius of 30 meters from an entrance to the building where the polling station is located, ”says Montana’s code.

The New York Electoral Act also mentions a ban on the distribution of food and drink – unless it is of little value and no candidate is identified for the supply of the food: “Except for meat, beverages, tobacco, refreshments, or food with a retail value of less than one dollar given or made available to an individual at a polling station without specifying the person or organization providing such determinations. “

Several campaign experts said the new Georgian provision was excessive.

“Giving food or drink to anyone near a polling line (and not just voters) is legal in federal elections, unless state law provides otherwise,” said Richard L. Hasen, professor of law and political science at the university of California in Irvine. “These anti-bribery laws are usually not designed to stop the supply of food and water to voters.”

He noted that “Georgia was already banned from voting in the elections and if it was really about that they could have written something narrower such as something that would prevent mentioning of candidates for food or water given to voters.”

David J. Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, also said the new Georgian law was unusual.

“While there are both federal and state bans on the purchase of votes, I am not aware of any law enforcement actions for the provision of food or drink to voters who are already in line to vote or decisions that would prevent the provision of votes consider eating or drinking for those already in line to vote as some sort of “incentive”, “Becker said. “In fact, free rides to polling stations are not considered by law to be an incentive or a valuable asset, and those who receive rides are by definition not waiting in line to vote.”

The Pinocchio test

States forbid bribery in elections – the offer of something of value in exchange for votes. There are certainly some states that Sterling could point to as a basis for Georgia’s decision to ban the provision of water and food in a specific area of ​​an electoral facility. But Delaware is not one of them.

Delaware has a ban on “giving money or any other valuable item as compensation, incentive, or reward for giving or withholding, or in any way influencing the giving or withholding of a vote”. This is the standard anti-bribery language, similar to Georgia’s previous law. In theory, this could be food or water provided by Candidate X, but that’s not the same as the new Georgian law. Georgia expressly forbids this – unless the food or drink is first made available to election officials for general distribution to the public.

Indeed, compare Montana’s language to Georgia’s language. Montana expressly binds the supply of food and water in exchange for votes. Georgia’s language is much vague, suggesting that eating and drinking are prohibited within 150 feet of an electoral facility.

Meanwhile, Delaware doesn’t mention food or water – just “compensation, incentive, or reward.” Perhaps that could be interpreted as food or water. But that’s not the same law.

This stitch falls too short as a smart topic of conversation. Sterling said Georgia wanted to draw a “light line,” but he cannot claim that the Delaware line is as light. Sterling deserves two Pinocchios.

Two pinocchios

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