A federal judge declined Friday to block a portion of Georgia’s controversial election law that bars handing out snacks and drinks to voters waiting in line within a certain distance of a polling place.
US District Judge J.P. Boulee rejected a bid for a preliminary injunction by liberal advocacy groups, who argued the ban infringed on their right to free speech.
Boulee’s ruling means activists will be prohibited from distributing food and drinks within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of any person in line during this year’s general election.
The judge noted that the 25-foot buffer around individuals in line was likely unconstitutional because it was not tied to a fixed location, unlike the 150-foot zone around a polling place. However, Boulee agreed with state officials who argued that it was too close to Election Day to change the law, as well as that implementing different rules for the Nov. 8 vote would only cause confusion among poll workers and voters.
Supporters of the restriction argue that it prevents voters from being influenced by operatives offering free food or water at polling places.
Georgia’s Election Integrity Act was decried by Democrats after its passage last year, with prominent Democrats pressing corporations to boycott the Peach State in response.
Major League Baseball pulled its 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of the law, moving the game to Denver.
Hollywood star Will Smith announced that because of the law, his production company would no longer film the antebellum drama “Emancipation” in the state.
Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Merck, UPS, JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft, and Facebook were among the myriad companies that expressed concerns over voter suppression in the wake of the law’s passage.