We recently discussed President Joe Biden’s false statement about the Georgia electoral law, which Biden called “Jim Crow on Steroids.” Biden falsely claims that the law closes polling stations earlier, a claim that even the Washington Post has declared false. In addition to reiterating his earlier false claim, Biden added a new one to support a major league baseball boycott of the Georgia state. It is a common false claim that people standing in line to vote will be denied water under the law. What is amazing is that the media itself fueled this false narrative and it is being used as a key claim in boycotting the state.
During an interview on ESPN, Biden re-declared the law as “Jim Crow on Steroids,” adding:
“I think that today’s professional athletes are incredibly responsible. I would strongly support them in this. People look to them, they are leaders. Check out what happened to the NBA too. Check out what happened down the line. The people who have been the most victimized are the people who lead these different sports and it just isn’t right. Imagine passing a law that says you cannot provide water or food to someone who is standing in line. Come on! Or do you close a polling station at 5 a.m. when working people are getting out? This is about keeping working and common people I grew up with from being able to vote. “
In fact, it’s hard to imagine because it’s not true and the White House knows it isn’t true. When a president is going to accuse a state of passing Jim Crow bill (let alone supporting a boycott), a minimum of accuracy and fairness is expected. Otherwise, not only the movement of voting rights, but also the office of the chairmanship itself will be impaired.
I will not repeat the clearly false claim of closing polling stations early. As the Washington Post noted (and repeated after this last interview), “The net effect is [of the Georgia law] is … expanding, not limiting, the choices for most Georgians. “The use of the provision to propose shortening election hours was a knowingly misrepresentation of those who wanted to justify the federalization of electoral laws in Congress. Despite pointing out the false statement, President Biden kept repeating it.
The water claim is as insincere as it is wrong. The law does not prevent people from giving water to those standing in line. The law allows “self-service water from an unattended container” for voters standing in line. It also allows anyone to give water or food to voters outside of the restricted area around the polling station.
It is common practice to block political campaigns or activities within a certain number of feet (often 150 feet – or a shorter distance from a line that goes beyond that area).
Here is the determination:
“(A) Nobody may solicit votes in any way or in any way or by any method, nor may they distribute or display campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer or give money or gifts, including but not limited to food and drink , to a voter, nor may a person obtain signatures on a petition, nor may any person other than election officials performing their duties set up or place tables or booths on any day in which to cast ballot papers
(1) Within 150 feet of the outside edge of a building that houses a polling station
(2) within a polling station; or
(3) Within 25 feet of any voter queuing to vote at a polling station. “
The bill then provides for “self-service water from an unattended container for a voter queuing to vote”. Nor does it restrict election workers from providing water to voters.
Georgia officials said that the impetus for the rule was when various political organizations circumvented the no-politicking rule in 2019 by distributing food and water with purpose-built food trucks. The rule is intended to fill this gap. If campaigns or others are really interested in just getting water to voters, they can do so anyway. You just can’t acknowledge it or directly involve voters in the limited area next to the polling stations.
Even Politifact (which has been criticized by conservatives for bias) realized that the water can be given to voters while stating that it is not true that only political organizations are banned. Politifact also recognizes that water can be added in the protected area of the polling station.
None of this stopped the ruthless rhetoric. Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at Vanderbilt University, worked with Joy Reid, the host of MSNBC, to advance this false narrative in an effort to federalize electoral laws on the cross Water availability by law, although this seems a stronger case for a postal vote under Georgian law.
Why should it be so outraged when interest is only the consolation of voters? As long as you do not seek direct campaign contact with voters at polling stations, you can deliver as much water as you want either shortly before the protected area or through non-politically open containers.
The extent of the misrepresentation of these provisions in the media has been appalling. The narrative has overwhelmed the news on the factual basis of these claims.
This column has been updated.