Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is cracking down on last ditch efforts by groups looking to campaign as voters stand in line at polling locations, with the U.S. Senate runoff election one week away.
Raffensperger called on county officials Tuesday, advising them to enforce the "buffer zone" which restricts groups from campaigning within 150 feet of a polling station.
"The right to vote is sacred and fundamental to our democracy, and I am committed to upholding that right for all Georgians," said Raffensperger. "Political organizations looking to game the system should be forewarned that we will not tolerate efforts to electioneer near polling sites in violation of the law."
The Secretary’s comments warned against political and advocacy groups using "line warming" – a practice where volunteers hand out snacks or drinks to "support" voters waiting in long lines – as a loophole for last-minute campaigning opportunities.
The buffer zone is supposed to "create an atmosphere of calm and non-interference for voters who are contemplating exercising one of their most basic constitutional rights," Raffensperger said Tuesday.
The tradition of "line warming" has become increasingly scrutinized with the special election days away, and not only because of the contentious nature of the race.
"Line warming" is a contested practice in Georgia, as anyone who gives or offers to give "money or gifts for the purpose of registering as a voter, voting, or voting for a particular candidate," could face felony charges.
Georgia’s senate election has the eyes of the country on it as incumbent GOP candidates, Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelley Loeffler face off in a highly contested race against challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock for not just seats in the high chamber of Congress, but for majority control of the Senate.
More than 2.3 million voters have already cast their ballot over the last two weeks, with just two days left in the early voting period.
So far the turnout is roughly 30% less than the number of people who had cast their ballot one week prior to the general election.
Though the still promising level of voter turnout for a runoff election shows the level of investment in the Peach State, with one voter telling Fox News "this is quite exciting" and "nerve racking."
"I guess right now you know we're in the midst of this huge pandemic. There's a lot of different things people are trying to do," another voter, Andre Timmons told Fox News Tuesday. "I just think the people that I voted for had a good sense of what their plans for it, and how to go about it, um, that was just the main topic for me."
President Trump lost the red state stronghold during the general election to President-elect Joe Biden. It was an outcome that Democrats have attributed to their work to reverse voter suppression and ensure more young Black voters cast their ballots.
Though some Democratic voting rights groups have raised concerns that fewer polling locations stationed around the state during the special election, could prohibit voting accessibility.
Likewise, Republicans have raised concerns regarding conservative voters feeling disenfranchised and skipping the polls following Trump’s loss in the general election. Another worry is the president's repeated claims of voter fraud, despite the Justice Department’s rejection of such allegations.
"No matter how small you think it may be, it can always be that that tipping to one side or the other, so I just think everybody should put their voice out there," Timmons told Fox News from at a polling station in Cobb County.
Robert Sherman contributed to this report.