ATLANTA – The Georgia Bureau of Investigation will have the power to investigate complaints of election fraud on its own under legislation Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law Wednesday.

This story also appeared in Capitol Beat News Service

The GBI component was part of a much larger election reform package Republican legislative leaders tried to get through the General Assembly this year. When the other provisions ran into opposition from local elections officials, supporters attached the GBI language to a different bill mostly related to the transmission of criminal case data and passed it along party lines during the legislative session’s final hour.

The legislation is a follow-up to a more comprehensive measure the General Assembly passed last year that among other things added a voter ID requirement for absentee ballots and restricted the location of absentee ballot drop boxes.

“Building on the strong, common-sense measures in our Election Integrity Act of 2021, this new law will allow us to engage highly qualified personnel from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to assist in ensuring our elections are secure and fair,” Kemp said Wednesday.

The fiscal 2023 budget lawmakers adopted early this month includes $504,116 to hire additional GBI personnel to handle election investigations.

Legislative Democrats argued that giving the GBI the ability to launch investigations of alleged election fraud unilaterally without being called in by local prosecutors – including subpoena power – would contribute to voter suppression through intimidation.

Republicans countered that the GBI has been handing such investigations for years and has the resources to do a professional job.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Dave Williams/Capitol Beat

Dave Williams is bureau chief for Capitol Beat News Service, a service of the Georgia Press Education Foundation.