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Georgia House Guts Bill That Would Have Given Election Board Power To Investigate Secretary Of State

Georgia’s GOP-led House derailed a bill that would have given the State Election Board authority to investigate the secretary of state.


By passing an unrelated substitute bill in its place on Tuesday, Georgia’s Republican-led House derailed a proposed bill that would have given the State Election Board (SEB) authority to investigate the secretary of state.

The Georgia Senate passed SB358 in January shortly after it passed out of the Senate Ethics Committee. The bill, as approved by the Senate, would remove the secretary of state from his role as an “ex officio nonvoting member” of the SEB and permit the board to, amongst other things, “investigate the Secretary of State” and “require the Secretary of State to cooperate with certain investigations.”

The bill clarified that the SEB has authority to investigate “the administration of primary and election laws by the Secretary of State and local election officials and frauds and irregularities in primaries and elections.”

But the House Committee on Governmental Affairs ditched the Senate’s bill in favor of a “substitute” bill that has nothing to do with the bill’s original purpose. That substitute appears to focus on campaign finance laws but includes no language authorizing the SEB to investigate the secretary of state as initially proposed.

The initial legislation was proposed after Houston County resident, Joseph Rossi, filed a complaint alerting Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office to alleged discrepancies in Fulton County’s 2020 election administration.

The SEB and the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections entered a consent agreement last June acknowledging the county “misidentified and duplicated” audit data when entering said data into the software used by the state. The investigators concluded the inconsistencies were the result of human error and the agreement stipulated the county would have to “adequately train all of its elections staff involved in conducting the risk-limiting audit on the policies and procedures in advance of each election.”

Proponents of the senate bill, however, argue the agreement did not provide any legitimate remedies.

“It provides no accountability to the person or persons who miscounted on such an important vote,” wrote Salleigh Grubbs, the chair of the Cobb County Republican Party, in a December letter to the SEB. “And these improper counts have diluted the citizens of other counties — and Fulton County — in ways that are unacceptable.”

The SEB wrote to the legislature in January 2024 requesting the General Assembly “clarify whether [the SEB] has jurisdiction to hear complaints from private individuals and entities regarding the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State’s employees and staff and other Constitutional Officers and their employees and staff” after the board split 2-2 on the decision.

Unsurprisingly, Secretary of State Brian Raffensperger pushed back against the proposal, arguing the SEB lacks the authority to conduct oversight of the executive branch.

“Giving a board of unelected bureaucrats unchecked power over the state’s executive branch is a dangerous policy proposal,” Raffensperger’s general counsel Charlene McGowan argued, according to Fox News.

Proponents of the senate proposal argue that after an investigation by the SEB, “any [enforcement] action against the Secretary of State would be decided by the Legislature alone” and that the SEB’s “more limited role in administration and enforcement does not mean that it may shirk its statutory duties of investigation and oversight,” according to the letter from Grubbs.

But by the looks of the House substitute bill, that requested reform isn’t likely to happen by the time the legislature adjourns sine die on Thursday.

Neither Speaker Jon Burns nor state Rep. John LaHood, who is the chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, returned a request for comment regarding the amended bill and whether the legislature would address concerns about SEB’s oversight authority. Burns did not participate in the vote on the bill.

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