Fact Check: Georgia Voting Law Does NOT Include A Non-Water Loophole Allowing People To Give Tea, Soda Pop, Milk To Voters Standing In Line

Fact Check

  • by: Dana Ford

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Georgia Voting Law Does NOT Include A Non-Water Loophole Allowing People To Give Tea, Soda Pop, Milk To Voters Standing In Line No Loophole

Does Georgia's new voting law allow people to hand out drinks to voters waiting in line, so long as the drink isn't water? No, that's not true: The text of the law says "food and drink," which would include beverages like iced tea, chocolate milk and Georgia-born Coca Cola. The new law makes it a misdemeanor to hand out drinks to voters within 150 feet of a polling place, within a polling place and within 25 feet of any voter in line, no matter what the drink is. The author of the post later added the note "just joke," which may indicate his claims were intended to be satirical.

The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) published on March 29, 2021. The post read:

GEORGIA Loophole Found: Give Iced Tea, Soda Pop, Kool Ade, Chocolate Milk, Mixed Drinks, Anything But 'WATER' To Drink.

This is what the post looked like at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Mar 31 15:13:44 2021 UTC)

The post did not provide any source for its claim.

To test the claim, Lead Stories went straight to the legislation, known as SB 202, which can be read here. For the purpose of this fact check, the relevant part can be found on pages 73 and 74. The law states (emphasis is ours):

No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast: (1) Within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established; (2) Within any polling place; or (3) Within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.

The legislation says "drink," not just water, so it would include beverages like soda and mixed drinks. There is no loophole.

Later, the law states:

This Code section shall not be construed to prohibit a poll officer from distributing materials, as required by law, which are necessary for the purpose of instructing electors or from distributing materials prepared by the Secretary of State which are designed solely for the purpose of encouraging voter participation in the election being conducted or from making available self-service water from an unattended receptacle to an elector waiting in line to vote.

In other words, poll workers are free to make water available to voters waiting in line, in the form of a self-serve station. They are not required to do so.

We reached out to Steve Tippins, chief of staff for Georgia state Sen. Butch Miller, who co-sponsored the legislation. In an email to Lead Stories on March 31, 2021, Tippins wrote:

The bill expands electioneering prohibitions to include enticing voters with gifts, including 'food and drink.'

He said the sort of drink doesn't matter.

A spokesperson with the Georgia secretary of state's office confirmed, during a phone call with Lead Stories on March 31, 2021, that the content of the container is irrelevant. No drinks may be given to voters standing in line.

Lead Stories also reached out to the author of the post. Following the original publication of this fact-check, on March 31, 2021, he wrote about his post:

It must have been a joke, copied it from a joking group

He also added "just joke" atop his original post.

Updates:

  • 2021-04-01T17:46:38Z 2021-04-01T17:46:38Z
    Updated to include comments from the person who posted the meme.

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  Dana Ford

Dana Ford is an Atlanta-based reporter and editor. She previously worked as a senior editor at Atlanta Magazine Custom Media and as a writer/ editor for CNN Digital. Ford has more than a decade of news experience, including several years spent working in Latin America.

Read more about or contact Dana Ford

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