By Andrew Malekoff
By now you must be aware that ever since Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election that he said was stolen from him and despite all evidence and judicial decisions to the contrary, there have been efforts in dozens of state legislatures to restrict access to voting. In fact, in 43 states Republicans have proposed more than 250 laws that would restrict the vote, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. On March 24 Georgia was first to pass such a bill.
Among the many provisions in the new Georgia law is that it is crime to hand out water or snacks to anyone standing in line to vote. The ban extends 150 feet from a polling place and 25 feet from any person standing in line. Violators, if convicted, may serve up to one year in county jail.
Proponents of the law contend that their aim is to prevent political partisans from influencing voters before they cast a ballot. Of course, there is bipartisan agreement that a fistful of dollars should never be exchanged for a ballot, but a bottle of water and a Kit Kat bar? C’mon, man! Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler said: “They want to make it a crime to bring Grandma some water while she’s waiting in line.”
I’ve always been good at math. In fact, when I was in elementary school, I used to help my dad check his business inventory. I can still see myself sitting at the head of our dining room table in my pajamas with a sharpened pencil in hand, adding up long rows of numbers and double and triple checking them.
Notwithstanding my skill at calculating, something just doesn’t add up. I don’t really get the math behind the 150-feet-from-the-polling-place and 25-feet-from-anyone-standing-in-line law. If you were standing with a bag of peanuts, say, 150 feet from the polling place, then you would by definition already be 25 feet away from any voters. No?
Then again, if you were a voter waiting in an exceptionally long voting line that extended for more than 150 feet from the polling place, presumably someone within 25-feet of you could toss you that bag of peanuts. Would that draw jail time?
Suppose there was a shorter line and the 150-foot-limit was too far to throw a bag of peanuts to a voter, would it violate the law to use a T-shirt cannon to deliver the peanuts or bottles of water to voters?
So as not to appear uninformed of what I speak, I did some research and learned that there are rapid loading T-shirt cannons with the ability to shoot shirts up to 300 feet every two to three seconds. That’s a lot of peanuts and water to relieve beleaguered voters and, unless I’m not understanding the law, no jail time.
My little theater-of-the-absurd aside, the late Congressman John Lewis was prescient when he referred to the vote as the most powerful nonviolent change agent in a democratic society. He cautioned that it is not guaranteed and that we can lose it, as we are reminded almost every day now.
To fortify our democracy, we must all get behind passage of the For the People’s Act, also known as H.R. 1, which promises to increase every American’s access to the ballot box, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, reduce the influence of big money in politics through campaign finance reform and much more.