The Republican-controlled Georgia State Election Board has taken a pivotal first step in a process that aims to bolster election security in Fulton County, a heavily Democratic county long perceived to be vulnerable to fraudulent activity.
What are the details?
Using new power granted to it by Georgia's new voting law, the board appointed a bipartisan panel Wednesday to probe Fulton County's elections management, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The outlet added that the investigation is "a performance review that could lead to a state takeover of the heavily Democratic county."
Fulton County, which according to the outlet "has a history of problems with long lines, slow results and administrative errors," was the subject of several allegations of fraud during the 2020 presidential election. Though state and local officials have said repeatedly that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the election.
In May, following repeated allegations, a Georgia judge agreed to unseal nearly 150,000 absentee ballots in the county for examination. That audit is separate from the one being conducted by the state election board.
In the forthcoming panel probe, however, investigators will similarly inspect vote counting and absentee ballot processing in the county and seek to ensure that local officials have been acting in compliance with state election rules.
According to Forbes, should they discover that local officials committed three or more violations since 2018, or that they otherwise engaged in acts of "nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence," a state administrator could be appointed to oversee future elections.
Republicans in the state have heralded the move as a way to combat fraud and mismanagement in Fulton County, while Democrats have derided the probe as a hostile attempt to take over a Democratic county's elections.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) has backed the probe, noting that the county has been "failing" at elections for decades but now a mechanism exists to do something about it. Last month, Raffensperger also called for the firing of two Fulton County election officials.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has also thrown his support behind it.
"Fulton County has a long history of mismanagement, incompetence and a lack of transparency when it comes to running elections, including during the 2020 election," Kemp spokesman Cody Hall told the Journal-Constitution. "The State Election Board now has the ability to hold chronically underperforming counties accountable."
Democratic Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts, on the other hand, slammed the probe as "a cynical ploy to undermine faith in our elections process and democracy itself."
"It is shameful partisan politics at its worst," he added.