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Voting rights groups filed a preliminary injunction motion that challenges certain barriers to voting created by Georgia’s anti-voter law, S.B. 202.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), if granted, the preliminary injunction would lift restrictions on line relief, including handing out free food, water, and other provisions to voters waiting in line. This would allow non-partisan voting rights organizations to continue providing free food and water to voters in line, as they did before the passage of S.B. 202.
The motion claims line relief restrictions violate the free speech rights of those handing out line relief and expressing gratitude to Georgians for voting, in addition to placing undue barriers on voters.
How did we get here?
After Georgia voters turned out in record numbers for the 2020 presidential election and U.S. Senate elections in early 2021, state legislators passed S.B. 202, which has been deemed unconstitutional and racially discriminatory by many of its opponents. Critics point out that S.B. 202 targets and massively disenfranchises Black voters, and voters of color.
In response, voting rights organizations filed The Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church vs. Brian Kemp, challenging multiple provisions of S.B. 202, per the SPLC.
Georgia organizations unite against S.B. 202
“Under S.B. 202, the Georgia state government has created barriers to voting that target basic human comforts, like food and water during a long wait at the polls,” said Poy Winichakul, senior staff attorney for voting rights with SPLC. “We are filing this preliminary injunction motion so Georgians waiting in long lines can have the simple relief of water or a snack.”
“By criminalizing the act of handing food or water to voters waiting in line, the line relief ban makes it harder to cast a ballot, especially for voters of color and voters with disabilities,” said Rahul Garabadu, a voting rights staff attorney at the ACLU of Georgia.
“This law is a blatant and shameless attempt to make voting more difficult in Georgia. It is inhumane, represents politics at its very worst, and is clearly illegal,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
“Georgians suffer from some of the longest polling place lines in the country, especially in neighborhoods of color,” said Adam Sieff, an attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine. “But instead of making it easier for old folks or parents waiting with kids to cast a ballot in sweltering heat or blistering cold, S.B. 202 makes it a crime for a neighbor to offer these voters a bottle of water or warm cup of coffee. That’s not only inhumane, it’s also a clear violation of the First Amendment and these citizens’ rights as voters.”
“Within civil rights and other justice movements, there is a long tradition of organizations like those we represent providing food and water to support Black and other voters fully exercise their right to vote,” said Leah Aden, deputy director of litigation at LDF. “Georgia’s ban on the ability of these organizations to provide this support is indicative of the cruel tactics those in power are willing to employ to stop communities of color from participating like they did in the 2020 and the 2021 runoff elections.”
Restricted from water and food in long lines, Georgia voters are denied their basic human rights all while waiting in line to vote for a better tomorrow that looks nothing like today.