Florida lawmakers are considering a bill that would overhaul aspects of the state’s election system, including prohibiting handing out food, water or anything else to voters near a polling place.
House Bill 7041 would make it a misdemeanor to hand out water — or anything else — to voters waiting in line, mirroring a ban enacted in Georgia as Republicans move to outlaw what is a fairly common practice in the South.
For years, campaigns and other groups have distributed water, sent
Pizza to the Polls, a nonpartisan grassroots organization, sent 2,068 pizzas to voters casting their ballots in 19 states around the country in the 2020 election. Areas such as Tampa benefited significantly from this.
The significantly broadens what is considered illegal solicitation in Florida, making the act of “giving or attempting to give any item” illegal, regardless of whether the item is political in nature or not. The only exception would be if they are 150 feet away from the door of a polling place.
“When you give something of value to a voter, especially if you’re a candidate, and you’re handing out something of value to someone in line, I think those people are more apt to think about voting for you,” said Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican from Hernando County, is a sponsor of the bill.
Ingoglia and Tallahassee Republicans argue that the bill is not intended to limit voters’ access to the ballot box or reduce the inclination of minority communities to go vote.
However, Florida Democrats argue that is exactly what it does.
“Voters trust the elections system. This would cancel all of that,” said Democratic Rep. Tracie Davis.
Georgia enacted a similar restriction when Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill of into law.
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