A newly passed bill that gives Georgia’s top law enforcement agency unfettered power to pursue any allegations of election fraud sets a troubling precedent for future elections, some election administration officials contend.
Before Senate Bill 441 passed on April 4, in the last hours of the state legislative session, it was up to either the state Attorney General or Secretary of State’s office to call in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into allegations of election fraud.
But SB 441, which awaits Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature, would give the GBI the power to initiate investigations into any allegations that cast doubt on an election’s outcome, going as far as seizing ballots or election machines and giving the agency subpoena power. The state’s top police agency would work with the Secretary of State’s office on cases that are already open, according to the bill.
Concerned election officials view the transfer of authority from the secretary of state to the GBI as a political weapon that potentially could lead to abuses of power and the possibility of elections being overturned.
“We’re going down a dangerous road,” Milton Kidd, the elections director for Douglas County, told Atlanta Civic Circle. “We’re in a politically divisive climate right now, with individuals making false allegations without having to offer up any supporting documentation. Now you’ve pulled law enforcement agencies into it.”
“You’re essentially politicizing the GBI,” Fulton County’s elections director, Rick Barron told Atlanta Civic Circle in a wide-ranging interview just before his April 1 departure. “The way elections operate in Georgia is already adversarial. The State Election Board is set up to be adversarial against the counties. And now, this is going to make it worse."
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