Chris Lange, FISM News
Georgia’s legislature passed a bill Monday that empowers state authorities to investigate election fraud.
The Criminal Record Responsibility Act passed 98-69 in the House and 33-22 in the Senate along party lines, according to Georgia’s bill tracker.
The measure gives the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the state’s top investigative agency, the authority to initiate probes of alleged election crimes. Under current law, the GBI can only offer assistance to the secretary of state’s office in investigating allegations of voter fraud or election irregularities.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, have come under fire by former President Donald Trump and his allies over their refusal to overturn the state’s 2020 election results following Trump’s allegations that the election was rigged.
An amendment authorizing the GBI authority to investigate any violation of the state’s election code was added to the measure shortly before it was green-lighted by the Georgia General Assembly.
The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp, who has 40 days to either sign it into law or veto it. The governor is facing a primary challenge from former Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue, who has been endorsed by Trump.
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R ) said The Criminal Record Responsibility Act is not a partisan reaction to the 2020 election.
“It was a good government measure to be sure that we have competent, professional, thorough investigators,” Ralston said. “GBI is the best there is in the state.”
Critics of the measure have pointed out that election fraud is rare in the United States and argue that the bill will only bolster “conspiracy theories” of election fraud and disenfranchise people of color, whom they say will find increased law enforcement presence at election sites intimidating.
“Any Georgia leader who claims to care about protecting our democracy — and ensuring that all Georgia voters can cast their votes free from intimidation — must stand with election workers and voting rights advocates by calling on Kemp to veto this legislation,” said Cianti Stewart-Reid of Fair Fight Action, a group spearheaded by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, according to a CNN report.
Aunna Dennis, executive director of the Georgia chapter of Common Cause, called the measure a waste of taxpayer money.
“If the Bureau is now entrusted with investigating anything that could create doubt about our elections — we suggest they start, first, by investigating those who have been profiting by creating such doubt,” Dennis said in a statement. “So many different groups and partisan extremists have been working to undermine confidence in Georgia’s elections,”
The bill’s supporters, however, say the measure ensures that allegations of election fraud are fully investigated and will therefore improve public confidence in results.
Georgia follows Florida in creating an election force to respond to GOP voting integrity concerns.
Raffensperger and state election officials have said multiple audits and investigations into the 2020 election results exposed irregularities and concerning evidence of fraud. Last year, Georgia passed an election reform bill that limits outdoor ballot boxes, creates a voter ID requirement for absentee ballots, and gives lawmakers broader oversight in elections. The measure also removed the secretary of state as chair of the state board.