Republican candidate for Georgia governor calls for election police unit

Then-Senator David Perdue (R-GA) speaks during a campaign event as he runs for re-election at the Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub, in Milton, Georgia, U.S., December 21, 2020.REUTERS/Al Drago

Jan 20 (Reuters) - David Perdue, a Republican candidate for Georgia governor, on Thursday called for the establishment of a police unit to investigate voter fraud, underscoring his campaign strategy of promoting falsehoods about wrongdoing in the 2020 election.

Perdue, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump in his bid to unseat fellow Republican Brian Kemp, said that he was proposing an "Election Law Enforcement Division" to investigate and enforce election laws in Georgia.

"This is about transparency and accountability. Georgians deserve confidence that only legal votes will be counted, and that anyone who tries to interfere with our elections will be arrested and prosecuted," Perdue wrote on Twitter.

Multiple recounts and audits have confirmed Democratic President Joe Biden's narrow win over Trump in Georgia, and there has been no evidence of widespread fraud in any state. Still, Trump and his allies in the Republican Party have continued to promote false claims about fraud causing Trump's 2020 electoral loss.

With the proposal, Perdue is following in the footsteps of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who earlier this week asked state lawmakers for nearly $6 million to create a dedicated police force to investigate voter fraud. DeSantis is also a Republican.

A spokesman for Kemp, who has become a target of Trump's ire because he refused to help overturn Biden's 2020 victory in the battleground state, said in a statement that the governor's office lacks the authority to investigate election crimes.

"By proposing this unit, Perdue is finally admitting what state law and the Georgia constitution have made abundantly clear: the Governor has no legal authority regarding the oversight, investigation, or administration of elections in our state," Cody Hall said in an emailed statement.

A spokesman for Brad Raffensperger, the state's top election official, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Perdue's proposal comes as Republicans across the country have enacted laws rolling back ballot access. Last month, Butch Miller, the No. 2 Republican in Georgia's state senate and a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2022, introduced a bill to eliminate absentee ballot drop boxes, which say high use in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kemp is battling Perdue in a Republican primary that will determine who will campaign against Stacey Abrams, who is widely expected to be the Democratic nominee for governor.

The Abrams campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Perdue's proposal.

reporting by Nathan Layne; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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