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Dear Decaturish – Georgia Secretary of State’s line warming action has chilling effects

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Dear Decaturish – Georgia Secretary of State’s line warming action has chilling effects

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Brad Raffensperger. Image obtained via sos.ga.gov
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Dear Decaturish,

Brad Raffensperger was never interested in protecting Georgian’s right to vote, only saving his own skin – and today’s action lays his motivation bare. The Georgia Secretary of State has issued a bulletin that effectively criminalizes the practice of “Line Warming.”

What is line warming? As voting participation has increased, so have efforts to suppress voter’s ability to exercise their right. Polling location closures or moves, shortened voting hours, new systems all led to chronic issues of  long waits to vote. Just this last election, we saw lines of more than 6 hours at the beginning of early voting.

Have ever waited in a line, on your feet, in Georgia weather for 6 hours? It ain’t easy. But, in 2016, 2018, and 2020, many Georgians proudly did so, unwilling to lose their franchise despite the barriers placed in their way.

Unfortunately, long waits also led to a large number of voters abandoning the line. Not everyone is physically or mentally able to tolerate those conditions. In response to this state-created problem, activists envisioned a people-led solution: Line Warming. “Line Warmers” are basically the voting equivalent of a rest stop in a running race. In polling locations that might experience delays, they make themselves available to hand out snacks, water, and sundries to the folks sticking it out in line. Some, like “pizza to the polls” go even further, offering hot meals to those that otherwise might abandon the line.

I’ve been a line warmer. Let me share a few of the hard-and-fast rules of line warming:

– EVERYONE can have a treat. It doesn’t matter if they’re voting or not. If some random person asks for a bottle, you give it to them.

– NO discussion of their vote/voting other than the fact that they’re obviously at a voting place.

– NO paraphernalia that indicates affiliation with a campaign or partisan organization.

– OBEY all requests from election officials, even if you think they’re unlawful.

Pretty harmless, right? The most important thing for a line warmer is to remove any potential perception of impropriety.

That said, here’s how Secretary Raffensperger would like you to think about line warming: “Political organizations or advocacy groups will use the giveaways or gifts, known as ‘line warming,’ to inappropriately influence voters in the crucial final moments before they cast their ballots.”

Do not let Secretary Raffensperger play these games. This move is a cynical attempt to curry favor with elements of his party that see vote suppression as a legitimate political tactic. It should also come as no surprise that one of the most active organizations for line warming is Fair Fight Action – led by Stacey Abrams. Personally, I don’t think the Secretary of State’s office should make decisions based on a grudge.
Mr. Secretary: this is utter malarkey. To paraphrase a newly-elected representative: “a bottle of water isn’t going to change the mind of someone who has waited 8 hours to vote.”  The law already prohibits the solicitation of votes – this is an unnecessary bulletin. It’s intent is clearly to intimidate and discourage those that would use their time and money voluntarily to address shortcomings in the election system that YOU administer. This move is a cynical attempt to curry favor with elements of your party that see vote suppression as a legitimate political tactic – and deep down you know better.

Brad Raffensperger and his lieutenants can pound the podium with vapid indignation in front of the capitol steps all they want – but at the end of the day, we know that they are not on the side of Georgian voters.

– Marcus Owens

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