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Republicans in the Senate Rules Committee rejected an amendment to the For The People Act that would ban states from restricting volunteers from handing out food or water to people standing in line to vote.
The amendment was proposed by Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia – where Republicans have recently passed a law that criminalises giving out food and water to voters at the polls – as part of his Voter Access to Water Act.
Republicans have claimed that allowing people to hand out food and water would encourage electioneering at the polls, which is already illegal.
Mr Ossoff said the Senate has been “somewhat plagued by a presumption of partisan bad faith” and discouraged senators to drop the “reflexive tendency to perceive the worst” from Democratic proposals supporting voting rights.
“It is already against the law … to campaign or engage in political advocacy or electioneering, wear campaign merchandise, have conversations with voters about who they’re going to vote for” while in line to vote, he said. “That’s already a crime.”
The committee is debating amendments for the For The People Act, sweeping voting rights and campaign finance reform legislation that has been supposed by House Democrats and the White House. It faces stiff opposition from an evenly divided Senate.