TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia finds himself on the defensive but perhaps mostly on the attack over legislation that he says “a lot of liberal media outlets are attacking.”
What You Need To Know
- Spring Hill state rep. says his bill would ban giving food, water near polling stations
- Rep. Ingoglia calls it a "no-solicitation provision" that also bans giving gifts, money
- Ingoglia's bill resembles a new Georgia law that also applies to polling places
Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) refers to his House Bill 7041, which he acknowledges would deny the giving of food and water, among other items, to voters within 150 feet of a polling station. That provision resembles a provision of a new Georgia law that makes it illegal to hand out food, drink, money, or gifts to voters within 150 feet of a polling place.
“It's a no-solicitation provision where you're not allowed to give anybody any … or approach anybody in line to vote,” Ingoglia told Spectrum News on Tuesday. “When asked the question (in a committee hearing): ‘Does this mean giving out food or water?’ I answered, ‘Yes – that would be solicitation.’”
The American Civil Liberties Union announced Tuesday that it had joined others in a federal lawsuit that challenges multiple provisions of the new Georgia law, “perhaps most cruelly, (the) ban on ‘line warming,’ where volunteers provide water and snacks to Georgians, disproportionately those of color, who wait in needlessly long lines to cast their vote.”
An NBC News report about Ingoglia’s bill prompted U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who represents Seminole County and much of northern Orange County, to tweet from her campaign account: “For anyone who has ever had to stand in line in Florida's heat - particularly in the August primaries - this latest move by Tallahassee Republicans is just cruel & unusual.”
In response, Ingoglia tweeted that Murphy went “on the record saying that she is fine with a primary opponent walking up and down a line of voters handing out water and food right before they cast their votes.
And in reply to an MSNBC tweet about the article, he wrote: “Stop advocating for bothering people while they’re in line to vote. #clueless #liberalthinking.”
Ingoglia’s bill stands among at least five Republican-sponsored bills in the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature that address elections. They come months after the November defeat of Republican President Donald Trump, who claimed election fraud.
The representative said his bill, which awaits consideration in the House Appropriations Committee, aims to “increase security and transparency while maintaining access to the polls.”
The bill covers parts of 45 pages and includes a number of vote-by-mail provisions, including a revision of the “list of people to whom the supervisor of elections may not deliver vote-by-mail ballots.” It also prohibits “counties, municipalities, and state agencies from sending vote-by-mail ballots unless specified requirements are met.”
The bill would provide “requirements for secure drop boxes” for mail-in ballots. Proposed Senate legislation would ban drop boxes, prompting concern from members of Orange County’s Black community, among others.
For his “no solicitation” provision, Ingoglia extends by 50 feet current law, which declares that “a person at a polling place or early voting site, or within 100 feet of the entrance of a polling place or early voting site, may not solicit any elector in an effort to provide assistance to vote …” For violations, the bill retains a penalty of first-degree misdemeanor.
Ingoglia said the provision that bans food, drink, and other items prevents people “from campaigning to a captive audience” of people waiting in line to vote.
“We've seen numerous instances where people would hand out water with 'vote for’ whoever the person is on the side, handing out hot dogs where the napkin said ‘vote for’ a person,” Ingoglia told Spectrum News. “That's clearly soliciting people.”
The representative said prospective voters could receive food or water as long as they’re more than 150 feet away from a polling-station entrance.
“There's also nothing in this bill preventing the supervisors of elections from handing out water,” Ingoglia said.
But not everybody is sure the bill carries the right approach.
Lauren Calmet, Rep. Murphy’s campaign spokeswoman, noted in an email to Spectrum News that “Rep. Murphy does not follow Rep. Ingoglia on Twitter, but here is a general statement from her on this cruel and unusual proposal:
“‘If a voter who is standing in line for potentially hours wants a bottle of water particularly in very hot weather, we should be able to give them one. That’s not campaigning; that’s humanity.’”