ATLANTA — A beverage company claims you can spend a year in jail for violating a controversial portion of Georgia’s new election law, but is that claim true?
Long lines for early voting in Georgia’s Senate runoff bring to mind a new law that makes it illegal to hand out food or water to anyone standing in line within 150-feet of a polling place. Voting rights groups have challenged the law, but a federal judge ruled it can remain in place through next Tuesday’s vote.
The beverage company Liquid Death is running a humorous ad encouraging voters here to bring their own refreshments to the polls. The ad claims that the punishment for giving out water to anyone waiting in line to vote is a year in jail.
Can you get a year in jail for giving food or beverages to voters in Georgia?
Yes, it is possible to get a year behind bars for serving food and water to voters.
What We Found
The law is detailed in Georgia statute 21-2-214, stating it is illegal to “solicit votes in any manner.” That includes giving out food and drink.
A spokesperson for Georgia’s Secretary of State confirms anyone convicted of violating the law is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
However, former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James tells us that during his time as a prosecutor, it was rare that anyone would get the maximum punishment for a misdemeanor.
“We used to call it a misdemeanor death penalty if you got a year,” James explained. “The only times I saw it handed out were repeat DUI offenders.”
He added he would be shocked to hear of an arrest and prosecution of someone providing treats to voters.
“And if anyone were prosecuted, I would be three times shocked if that person was actually jailed,” he continued. “I’m not saying people should go out and violate the law because then you make it hard on the local police chief or local sheriff.”
So again, we can Verify that it is possible but it's highly unlikely you'll get a year behind bars for serving food and water to voters.