A few weeks ago, Georgia signed a law that, among other things:

  1. Does not allow offering food or water to voters. It makes it a CRIME to do that.
  2. Cuts the runoff period from 9 to 4 weeks.
  3. Bans no excuse absentee voting for people who would likely be able to vote in person.
  4. Cuts early voting days.

A report from a youtube channel "Let's Talk Elections" tried to detail this. It said that it targets urban voters, because you probably don't care if you can't get water in say Appling County. But you very well could if you live in Fulton County.

Is there conclusive evidence suggesting such laws would/could hurt the Democratic Party by decreasing their vote share?

  • About food/water in line. I believe it outlaws using food and water to electioneer on line. As in you can't go up to the line and say "vote for Smith, here's a bottle of water and some cookies." Election officials are still allowed to distribute food/water on line.
    – puppetsock
    Apr 26, 2021 at 14:40
  • A complete answer to this question would include the other states that have similar laws already. Or more stringent laws.
    – puppetsock
    Apr 26, 2021 at 14:42
  • Also, a complete answer would include this factor. sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886916310996 "Our results show that self-identified political ideology is monotonically related to criminal conduct cross-sectionally and prospectively and that liberals self-report more criminal conduct than do conservatives."
    – puppetsock
    Apr 26, 2021 at 14:48

2 Answers 2


There is almost never conclusive evidence in the social sciences (and this is a political science question).

The evidence appears to be divided. But there is pretty good evidence that making voting more "convenient" may not have a very large effect on turnout. (I'm pulling some of these from a great summary by Nate Cohn.)

I am aware of no study that mentions or has examined the effects of snacks and water on voting turnout patterns.

Cohn makes the very good point that convenience voting measures "tend to reinforce the socioeconomic biases favoring high-turnout voters." And the Georgia law seems to go beyond convenience and affect more partisan intervention in elections results. But as to your original question, which focused on making voting more convenient, the evidence mostly indicates these particular interventions do not affect turnout.

  • Note that the Stanford research predates the 2020 election, which may well have been an exception to that finding, due to covid-related reasons. Apr 25, 2021 at 0:58
  • Ok.. but covid will be over by the next year so I don't believe it makes a difference if the research is before 2020.
    – Ray
    Apr 25, 2021 at 2:09
  • @Ray Depends on what you mean by "covid". Apr 25, 2021 at 2:49
  • Suffice it to say that almost everyone involved in the electoral process and almost all elected officials in Georgia believe that it will hurt Democrats and help Republicans in Georgia. Some of this relates to the experience in the Jim Crow era, and the intent of the people who passed the bill to apply these rules in a manner that has a partisan bias.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 26, 2021 at 18:50
  • 1
    that may be true, @ohwilleke, but belief, in this case and based on prior evidence, hasn't borne out empirically, at least as far as convenience measures. (Other policies, especially related to districting, do have empirical support for their effects.)
    – Nate
    Apr 27, 2021 at 13:55

In general, without respect to party:

American voters on average seldom wait over twenty minutes to vote. Entirely banning food and snacks in such voters' typical voting lines would probably not hurt average voters.

But in Georgia some citizens had to wait in line over ten hours to vote; compared to the average American voter, that's a 3000% increase in opportunity cost.

For a Georgian minimum wage earner paid $7.25 an hour, 10 hours is $72.50 -- vs. for the average American minimum wage earner paid $7.25 an hour, 20 minutes is $2.41.

(The lost opportunity cost even trickles upward to the wage earner's employer. Their employer might lose an essential worker for 10 hours, costing them productivity and profit. If the employer unpatriotically fires the worker for taking the time to vote, they then must undertake the expense and stress of finding and hiring a replacement worker.)

Typical American meal times are spaced about five or six hours apart. It is unreasonable and unhealthy to expect citizens not to eat for 10 hours, and we should expect that citizens waiting for 10 hours going to need to eat.

If the queue times were well known in advance, a citizen might prepare themselves for a 10 hour wait by packing rations, like a camper or a soldier. But the queue times are unpredictable, so that a citizen might expect a 20 minute wait, or an hour wait, etc. but not such a long wait as to need to prepare rations. Some, perhaps many, citizens unfortunate enough to be in a 10 hour line could be unprepared.

Some citizens have medical conditions, that require them to eat or drink at certain times. A citizen with a such a medical condition would therefore risk harm if they were caught unprepared in a 10 hour Georgia voting line.

And so forth. In short, compared to the average American's 20 minutes or less wait:

  • 10 hour voting lines are harmful to anyone stuck in one, regardless of political party.

  • Risking 10 hours without food, and perhaps without drink, (should the Georgians forget to refill the water cooler, or run out of Dixie Cups), would be harmful to anyone, particularly those with medical conditions.

Things that are harmful to any citizen would therefore be harmful to citizens who happen to be Democrats.

  • Do you think that these 10 hour wait times were equally likely in highly populated urban precincts and lightly populated rural precincts?
    – The Photon
    Apr 25, 2021 at 5:47
  • This answer does explain the potential damage of these laws, but not why they hurt the Democratic party more than they hurt the Republican party.
    – Philipp
    Apr 25, 2021 at 9:00
  • Those long wait periods are not just in Georgia and they typically hit certain demographics when they happen. In the states that have the crazy long waits you vote you will also find areas where the wait is a lot shorter or even non existent. This generally caused by reducing the number of polling places in targeted areas and increasing/leaving them along in other areas.
    – Joe W
    Apr 25, 2021 at 15:01
  • @ThePhoton, Thanks, but no I don't think these 10 hour wait times were equally likely in highly populated urban precincts and lightly populated rural precincts. I do believe however that abstracting precinct location, demographics, and party from an answer might help some readers to step away from cheering their favorites in Georgia's political horse race and imagine how it would feel to be a jockey in such a race.
    – agc
    Apr 25, 2021 at 23:30
  • @Philipp, IMHO it's better left as an exercise for the reader. The Q. itself lays down the demographic clues, by asserting that these laws target urban voters, and are purported to hurt Democrats. Qui bono? Partisan dogfighting aside, what I'd emphasise is that having such low, mean spirited, and petty rules hurt Georgians in general, and the State of Georgia as a whole.
    – agc
    Apr 26, 2021 at 0:06

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