Every Republican senator on the Rules Committee voted against an amendment that would thwart attempts to criminalize handing out refreshments to voters.
Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked an amendment to a voting rights bill that would have banned states from making it a crime to hand out refreshments to voters waiting in line to vote, the latest sign that the GOP has no intention of joining Democrats to pass legislation making it easier to vote.
The incident took place at a Senate Rules Committee markup of the For the People Act, the sweeping pro-democracy bill House Democrats passed in March, which would make it easier to register to vote as well as cast ballots.
Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) introduced the amendment, which is a direct response to a voter suppression law Republicans in his own state passed in March that makes it a crime to give out refreshments to voters.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the ranking member on the Rules Committee, said the federal government should not be telling states what to do when it comes to handing out refreshments at the polls — and even raised concern that giving out food and drink could influence votes.
"I have a hard time imagining that there's some totally neutral individual who organizes providing food and water to people at the polling place without some motive of wanting to express their own view of democracy or politics or candidates," Blunt said.
The GOP effort to criminalize giving out refreshments to make it easier to stand in long lines to vote started after the 2020 election, when nonpartisan groups like Pizza to the Polls sent hundreds of pizzas to voters waiting in line for Georgia's Senate runoff elections.
Ossoff and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock both won those Jan. 5 runoff contests, ousting Georgia's two GOP senators and flipping control of the Senate to Democrats.
The Georgia provision criminalizing handing out food and drinks to voters is one of a spate of voter suppression measures that have been passed across the country in recent months.
Republican state lawmakers are passing the legislation in response to Donald Trump's lie that the 2020 election was stolen, saying these suppression tactics are necessary to promote "election integrity."
However, voting rights experts say the legislation is aimed at making it harder for minority voters to cast ballots — groups that traditionally support Democrats.
And they've urged congressional Democrats to pass the For the People Act — which would thwart nearly every GOP voter suppression bill and law that's cropped up across the country.
Republicans have admitted that they fear making it easier to vote would hamper GOP candidates in future elections.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) said Blunt's reasoning behind opposing the amendment made no sense.
"Remember when 7 million more Americans changed their vote to Biden because they got water while standing in line?" Lieu — who has vowed to risk arrest in Georgia to give out water to voters in protest of the law — tweeted.
"Voting is private. Are voters going to stand in line for hours just so they could change their vote after getting water? Does @GOP know how ridiculous this sounds?"
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.