On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace and a Republican strategist discussed the details of Georgia’s new law banning certain food and water freebies to voters.

“Why on earth, when Americans are ready to wait hours for the vote, would you make it a crime for people to come and give them a bottle of water?” Wallace asked.

Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell, later came and circled back to respond to Wallace’s claim. Holmes said Democrats misrepresented this provision of a new Georgian law.

“I’ve heard it a couple of times on this program that the idea that they criminalized giving people bottled water was criminalized. They didn’t,” said Holmes, founder of a consulting firm. “What is in the statutes, what is absolutely clear, is that they prevent political organizations from reconciling people: meals, water, what have you got. Water is and should be made available to people in the elections Vote stand line. “

Wallace and Holmes went back and forth over the details of the new Georgia law. Wallace said repeatedly that the new law bans the distribution of food and water to voters, and Holmes pushed back.

“Are you really suggesting that it should be wrong to provide water or drink to people standing in line to exercise their democratic right to vote?” Wallace asked.

Holmes replied, “No, I am not. What I am proposing is wrong to suggest that the law does.” He later said: “It specifically means that it cannot be provided by political entities that want to influence the outcome of a vote in one way or another.”

We decided to review Holmes’ statement that Georgian law does not criminalize giving water bottles to voters.

Governor Brian Kemp signed SB 202 on March 25th. Voting advocates were quick to suing and raising several objections, including the laws on giveaways for food and water.

Voting advocates routinely organize the distribution of food and water near polling stations where residents sometimes have to stand in line for hours to cast their votes, often in non-white communities where polling stations are overcrowded. Some of the larger events are organized by those with links on the left, even though they provide the food and water for everyone.

What Georgia’s SB 202 says about food and water giveaways

After the show, the debate moved to Twitter, where Fox News Sunday and Holmes tweeted provisions of SB 202. This section of the law states:

“(a) Nobody may, nor may one, solicit votes in any way or in any way or by any method

Person who distributes or displays campaign material, nor is a person allowed to give, offer to give,

or participate in the giving of money or gifts, including but not limited to groceries and

a voter something to drink, nor is a person allowed to get signatures for a petition, nor is a person allowed to

persons other than electoral officers who are performing their duties set up tables or furnish them

or booths on each day that ballots are cast

(1) Within 150 feet of the outside edge of a building that houses a polling station


(2) within a polling station; or

(3) Within 25 feet of any voter queuing to vote at a polling station. “

The bill also states that election workers “can provide self-service water from an unattended container to a voter waiting in line to vote.” But nothing in the law requires election workers to easily provide water to voters while they stand in line.

Holmes tweeted that “the final section clearly exempts election officials from bans on the provision of water, water, etc. by political entities”.

Holmes is right that election workers can set up self-service water stations. However, during the show, he was mistaken when he said the law does not criminalize giving away water.

The law makes it an offense to give away food or water within 150 feet of the outer edge of a polling station building or within 25 feet of a voter in line. Violations of this law are punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of $ 1,000. While other people can give away food or water as election workers, they must adhere to these limits to avoid breaking the law.

Holmes stressed in an email to PolitiFact that water is allowed, but from an unattended container. And he reiterated his claim that the law aims to prevent people from political organizations from making such handouts.

“I specifically responded to repeated claims that it criminalized water in elections,” Holmes told PolitiFact. “When I read the statute and speak to Georgian officials, I understand that the purpose of the statute is to prevent campaigning in elections, which is in line with many other state laws. Which, in my opinion, clarifies the criminalization allegation of Water requires is the following. This Georgian Statute did not contain any information on the matter. It specifically dealt with the way in which it can be provided. “

However, the language of the law not only forbids political entities from distributing water.

Keith Williams, General Counsel to Republican Speaker of Parliament David Ralston, told PolitiFact, “Any person other than a worker at a polling station is prohibited from distributing water, etc., within 150 feet of a polling station or within 25 feet of the line.”

Suffrage experts came to similar conclusions.

“I’ve read the advertising regulations and the ban on food and water in the elections as separate bans in the law,” said Richard Hasen, professor of suffrage at the University of California at Irvine. “It’s not limited to those who get votes.”

Justin Levitt, a law professor at Loyola Marymount University, told PolitiFact, “I read SB 202 and I think the courts would read it to prohibit anyone from giving food or water to a voter in line.”

A spokesman for the Georgian Foreign Minister noted that voters are welcome to bring their own food and refreshments to stand in line. He said the purpose of the provision is to avoid situations like candidates wrapping water or food in campaign materials.

The crackdown on giveaways for food and water for voters in Georgia is not new. A state law already banned the giving of gifts “to register as a voter, to vote or to vote for a specific candidate”. That provision does not directly mention food or water, but Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had previously interpreted it to include food or water.

Our decision

Holmes said a Georgia law did not “criminalize” giving people bottles of water. It affects political organizations.

SB 202 makes it a crime for people – and not just people in political organizations – to distribute food or water bottles within 150 feet of a polling station or 25 feet of a queuing voter.

The only crux of the truth is that the law contains a ruling that will allow poll workers to “provide self-service water from an unattended container to a voter waiting in line to vote.” Just because pollers can provide self-service water doesn’t mean they need to find a way to make water available to voters on every line at every polling station. Also, people could hand out water or food to voters outside the 150-foot and 25-foot limits.

We mostly rate this statement as false.