ATLANTA — Nine new election bills were introduced in the state Senate on Tuesday. Each of them was written to restrict absentee ballots and curb voter registration, among other things.
Before the 2021 Legislative Session even started, Republicans upset about the November election promised to deliver a package of bills to change voting laws. This is it.
Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) sponsored most of them, with the backing of the state Senate Republican leadership.
One of the bills would call for a photocopy of an identification -- like a driver's license -- when mailing in an absentee ballot application. Another bill eliminates no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia. A third bill eliminates absentee ballot drop boxes across the state. A fourth bill prevents outside bills from sending out absentee ballot applications.
Mullis lives in northwest Georgia -- in an area that overwhelmingly supported President Donald Trump in the November election.
"I was listening to my constituents. They think there was something not kosher about the election," Mullis told 11Alive News. "I don't know whether I agree or not. However, we're going to make sure the ballot box is secure."
Democrats say that's almost laughable.
"The biggest problem is now, they are trying to prohibit access to the ballot. That's all this is," said state Sen. David Lucas (D-Macon). "That's all it is. We won. We won in this last election."
Joe Biden won Georgia's 16 electoral votes in the November election. And in the January Senate runoff, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock unseated two Republicans.
Mullis said his bills are not designed to benefit either party.
"We are reacting to our constituency," he said. "We want to restore confidence in the election. Whichever side you're on, you should want the same thing."
Some Republicans, like Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, have expressed reservations about eliminating no-excuse absentee ballots and enacting other restrictions.
One of Mullis's bills attacks a problem that critics of the election liked to talk about, but produced scant evidence of an actual problem.
Senate Bill 72 would require mortuaries to issue monthly reports to election officials in an attempt to document voters who are no longer alive, and remove them from voter rolls.
"Dead people voted in Jimmy Carter's first (state) Senate race," in 1962, Mullis said. Carter went to court and won the election after local officials in Quitman County illegally stuffed ballot boxes.
Mullis said he knows of one dead voter whose ballot was inadvertently cast in Dade County in 2020.
"It's not a huge, overwhelming thing," he said. "It has been in past elections, probably not this past one, though."
Mullis, who chairs the powerful Senate Rules Committee, says he expects changes as his bills head toward votes in the Legislature.