Georgia passes bill giving state law enforcement agency power to investigate elections

Georgia is the second state after Florida to pass an election police force bill this year as Republicans continue to falsely claim the 2020 election was riddled with voter fraud.

Under SB 441, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation could initiate an investigation without being called by another law enforcement agency. The bill also gives the office the authority to subpoena voter records with the approval of the state attorney general. Currently, state election officials investigate allegations of fraud.

The umbrella bill deals primarily with criminal data processing, an issue that had bipartisan support. Republican state Rep. James Burchett added the GBI provision to the bill late in the session, prompting protests from Democratic supporters of the original bill.

“The rest of this … good bill. The original jurisdiction piece for GBI: heartburn for Democrats and a lot of people in the room,” said state Rep. Josh McLaurin, a Democrat.

Burchett argued that the GBI provision was an appropriate addition to the bill because it deals with criminal investigations.

“What we are looking for is for the GBI to investigate conspiracy to commit voter fraud, if necessary, and give them the discretion to investigate to do so. I think these are relevant to the topic and that is why this bill was chosen,” he said. Burchett. explaining the last-minute addition to the bill at a key committee meeting on Monday.

The election police force is one of the few provisions in a much broader umbrella bill that Republicans had hoped to pass this session.

House Republicans began with a 40-page bill that last week morphed into a two-page bill after local election officials urged lawmakers to reconsider making changes to California election procedures. Georgia just a few months before the November midterm elections.

Early Monday morning, House Republicans revived the bill again only to see it fail to make it to the full state Senate after outgoing Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, a Republican, ruled the legislation was not in order and most senators backed his decision.

The original legislation included provisions for elaborate chain-of-custody procedures, public inspection of original paper ballots, and limits on third-party donations to election administration, among other changes.

This marks the second year in a row that Republicans who control the Georgia legislature have proposed sweeping changes to the state’s election code following President Joe Biden’s narrow victory in 2020.

The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for approval. He has 40 days to sign the legislation or veto it.

Voting rights advocates are calling on Kemp, who faces a primary challenge from former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is backed by former President Donald Trump, to veto legislation they say will intimidate voters.

“Any Georgia leader who claims to care about protecting our democracy, and ensuring that all Georgia voters can cast their ballot without intimidation, should stand with poll workers and voting rights advocates and ask Kemp to veto this legislation.” Cianti said. Stewart-Reid of Fair Fight Action, a group established by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

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