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Florida Republicans considering new election bill that would effectively ban giving voters water

Similar to a provision in Georgia's new election law, it's one of a number of proposals moving through the state's GOP-controlled Legislature.
Voters enjoy pizza while they wait in line to vote in Atlanta on Nov. 6, 2018.
Voters enjoy pizza while they wait in line to vote in Atlanta on Nov. 6, 2018.Melina Mara / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

Florida Republicans are considering a bill that would effectively make it a crime to give voters food or drink, including water, within 150 feet of polling places.

According to the text of an elections bill introduced last week, state law currently prohibits offering voters assistance within 100 feet of polling locations; H.B. 7041 proposes expanding that zone to 150 feet and includes a prohibition on giving “any item” to voters or “interacting or attempting to interact” with voters within that zone.

State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican from Spring Hill, said in a committee meeting last Monday that the ban would include “food or beverages.”

The proposal is similar to a measure in Georgia’s sweeping new election law that bans giving water, food or gifts to voters waiting in line, among many other restrictions. President Joe Biden, in condemning Georgia's law as “outrageous” and “Jim Crow in the 21st Century," singled out that provision as evidence of suppressive intent in a state he flipped blue for the first time in decades.

"If you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency, they pass a law saying you can't provide water for people standing in line while they're waiting to vote," he said on Friday.

Georgia Republicans have said the state's election laws needed tightening to improve voter confidence.

For years, campaigns and other groups have distributed water, sent food trucks and had pizza delivered to voters waiting in long lines to cast a ballot. Amid a nationwide effort by Republican lawmakers to tighten voting laws in the wake of an election their nominee lost, the practice has come under fire.

Former President Donald Trump's relentless lie of a stolen election has inspired an avalanche of bills nationwide, as GOP lawmakers around the country seek to add restrictions to mail voting and other electoral practices. By all accounts, the 2020 election was secure and the results accurate. Trump's own attorney general, William Barr, said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and the president's legal efforts to overturn the results failed in courtrooms around the country.

Trump won Florida in 2020, but that hasn't stopped Republicans from pursuing a spate of election-related bills. Many of the bills under consideration target mail voting and drop boxes, a longstanding method for voters to return ballots that the former president attacked without evidence as inherently fraudulent. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, advocated for new mail voting restrictions last month.

The state has allowed all voters to vote by mail for more than 15 years.

H.B. 7041, which was recommended by an elections committee last Wednesday along party lines, is 44 pages long and contains a number of other election restrictions. It would require voters to request mail ballots more frequently, add more identification requirements for mail voting, and limit how drop boxes are used.

Introducing the bill last week, Ingoglia said that Florida's 2020 election was a success but that the system could still be improved.

“We should never rest on our laurels and we should never pass up an opportunity to make a good thing better,” he said.