There’s a lot of attention on social media concerning Georgia’s new law that proscribes giving food or water to people standing in line to vote. Everyone is (rightly) incensed at this. But let’s stop for a minute and make sure we’re not being played.
Why is giving food and water to people in voting lines even a thing?
Certainly at the nice, majority-white, suburban and rural places where I’ve always voted, no one is handing out food and water. Why? Because no one is in line long enough to need food or water. Generally, there’s no line at all, except maybe just before and after work and, even then, the line might be 10 or 15 minutes long.
No, handing out food and water is a thing because racists make people of color stand in insanely long lines, sometimes for many hours, in order to vote. And people hand out food and water so that voters won’t get out of line because they’re starving or thirsty. And somehow, we’ve just gotten to accept that that’s the way things are and so we’ll work around those lines by handing out bottles of water.
But the real problem is that no American should ever have to stand in a long line in order to vote.
We know how to make sure people don’t collapse of thirst while waiting to vote. We let people vote for several weeks before Election Day. We let people request ballots by mail and then we arrange for them to either mail their ballots back or to drop their ballots off at secure drop boxes. And, we make sure that there are enough polling locations and voting machines for them on Election Day. It’s not complicated.
I have a suspicion that the prohibition on food and water is designed to attract all the attention and outrage. Meanwhile, the bill includes some other provisions that pose an even greater threat to fair elections. And, I suspect the prohibition is also there so the courts can strike that provision down, thereby looking reasonable, while leaving the other pernicious provisions intact. (Legal severablity is too long a topic for this post, but legislatures have learned how to use it to their advantage.)
We need the Senate to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (Congress already did so). For that to happen, the Senate is going to need to modify or abandon the filibuster. I’ve been calling my Senators every morning urging them to do so NOW! Remember when the Senate threatened to take away health care and we all called every morning? Phone were busy pretty much all day, every day. We need that kind of effort to protect our democracy. Please put your Senators’ phone numbers on speed dial and start calling them every morning.
It’s not going to be some great victory to preserve the right to give people food and water while they stand in impossible lines to vote. The victory will be getting rid of those lines. Don’t let them distract you.
Picture found here.