(The Center Square) — Georgia lawmakers approved a measure to update the state’s criminal data reporting system and allow the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to proactively investigate election fraud.
One part of Senate Bill 441, the Criminal Record Responsibility Act, would form the Criminal Case Data Exchange Board. It would oversee a process for criminal justice agencies, clerks of court and probation and parole supervision offices to electronically report updates to the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) database.
“When judicial leaders do not have a complete picture of an individual’s criminal history, the safety of our communities is compromised,” Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan said in a statement.
The fiscal 2023 budget includes an appropriation of $345,000 in startup costs for the Council of Superior Court Clerks, which will allow the Criminal Case Data Exchange Board to begin its work, Emma Johnson, director of communications for Duncan, told The Center Square.
“Ensuring access to updated criminal records is a crucial public safety issue not only for the judicial system, but for potential employers, housing companies and occupational licensing boards who require a criminal background check,” Sen. Bo Hatchett, R-Cornelia, said in a statement.
The measure also gives the GBI the “original jurisdiction” to proactively investigate “election fraud and election crimes,” including subpoena power with the consent of the state’s attorney general. Critics say the parameters for an investigation are vague and could discourage Georgians from voting.
“Giving the Georgia Bureau of Investigation power over election-related investigations is an unnecessary step that will only lead to more voter intimidation and discourage Georgians from casting their ballots,” Lana Goitia-Paz, the Georgia state campaign manager for All Voting is Local, said in a statement. “…The people of Georgia deserve laws that facilitate access to the ballot box, not measures that intentionally try to silence their voices.”
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce were among the organizations to support SB 441. The measure now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, for his signature.
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor