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Criminalizing Water to Support Jim Crow Voting Restrictions


The use of ridiculously oppressive rules to stop Black people from voting had a long history. Georgia has brought it back with the single least defensible piece of its New Jim Crow voting restrictions: criminalizing giving people standing in line to vote food and water.

Under the bill, signed into law Thursday night by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, it’s now illegal to hand out food or water to people standing in line to vote. “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,” the new law states.

The law applies within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter at a polling place. Violators are guilty of a misdemeanor.But some observers see the provision as an attempt to curb voting by urban voters and people of color who lean Democratic and whose precincts often have long waits to cast ballots.

One influential Black pastor said he thinks the new law is unreasonable and that his church will use it to fire up voters.”

We will make a movement out of that,” said the Rev. Tim McDonald, senior pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. “You know something is wrong when you can’t give grandma a bottle of water and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

McDonald told CNN he is already planning to test the law with some civil disobedience. He said that at a future election his church will dare the police to arrest someone giving water to an elderly person waiting to vote.

I am actually somewhat skeptical that all of these voting restrictions will work for Republicans. If you think the Black church can’t make adjustments to white supremacy, you know nothing about the history of Black churches. And this is exactly the kind of thing that infuriates white suburbanites. But in any case, the food and water part of the law is so egregious and so over the top that either it embarrasses Georgia on the national stage when it is enforced or it just isn’t enforced at all.

But hey, the Voting Rights Act is unnecessary, amirite John Roberts?

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