Georgia lawmakers follow Florida to advance Republican-backed bill to police elections

March 15 (Reuters) – Republican lawmakers in Georgia on Tuesday advanced a bill expanding law enforcement’s power to investigate election fraud, adding to U.S. conservatives’ push for more restrictive voting laws after former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

Georgia’s House of Representatives approved the legislation on a largely party-line vote of 98-73, sending it to the state Senate, less than a week after Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a measure to create a first-of-its-kind election police force in that state.

Voting rights groups and Democrats in both states say the legislation is intended to appease Trump and his supporters despite the fact that election fraud is exceedingly rare in the United States.

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They also say the new laws will intimidate voters, particularly people of color, while providing a pretense for politicians to undermine confidence in election outcomes.

“It doesn’t have to be billy clubs,” said Stephanie Ali, policy director for the New Georgia Project Action Fund, a voting rights group. “It’s just finding a new way to stop people from voting in the same way that has always been done in this country.”

Supporters of such measures counter that they are designed to ensure greater election integrity.

A coalition of organizations, including Fair Fight Action, the voting group founded by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, announced a nearly $1.5 million campaign on Tuesday opposing the Georgia bill.

Georgia and Florida had already passed sweeping voting restrictions last year, part of a wave of such legislation among Republican-controlled states.

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Reporting by Joseph Ax
Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tim Ahmann

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.