Georgia state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, has introduced a handful of election reform bills he said are aimed at securing the state's election process.
Mullis announced a total of seven bills to "secure the right to vote and ensure that the will of the people is properly reflected in our election results."
If the proposals pass the General Assembly, the state would get rid of its no-excuse absentee voting, require those who are eligible for absentee voting to submit a form of ID and ban ballot drop boxes, among other things.
Another bill states that if a voter relocates to Georgia after a November general election that person could not participate in any resulting runoff election.
"Our recent General Election this past November highlighted a few areas of our state's election system that require urgent attention," Mullis said in a statement. "Our right to vote is one of the most sacred and cherished practices of our democratic republic. When Georgians do not trust that their voices are properly being heard, we owe it to them to address their concerns and find the proper solutions to restore their confidence in the process."
In a statement, Fair Fight — the voting rights group led by Stacey Abrams — called the set of bills an "unhinged set of voter suppression legislation from a radical Senate Republican leadership" that "appears intended to appease conspiracy theorists like those who stormed the Capitol last month."
"Republicans wrote Georgia's election laws, but they were humiliated on November 3 and January 5," the statement reads. "They are seeking, transparently, to silence Georgians, particularly communities of color, who exercised their power to change Georgia. Fair Fight and our allies are prepared to fight every Republican attempt to roll back voting rights."
Mullis is again the legislature's chair of the influential Senate Rules Committee, which decides what bills make it to the floor for consideration.
The seven bills are:
— SB 68: Would clarify "where and how absentee ballots may be delivered" as well as ban the use of drop boxes, which are monitored 24/7 and were installed as a response to the coronavirus pandemic after counties were forced to operate fewer polling places. The bill has 12 co-sponsors.
— SB 69: Would get rid of the state's automatic voter registration and instead create a voter's registration when voters file any kind of paperwork at their Department of Motor Vehicles service location. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, often has lauded the automatic voter registration system now in place. The bill has 10 co-sponsors.
— SB 70: Would prohibit voters who move to Georgia after a general election from voting in a following runoff election in the same election cycle. The bill has 11 co-sponsors.
— SB 71: Would require that a voter provide an authorized reason to vote by absentee ballot, hence getting rid of the no-excuse absentee voting rules Georgia has. Georgians have been able to vote absentee without an excuse since a Republican-controlled legislature approved the practice in 2005, though it was not widely used until this year after the pandemic struck. In December, Raffensperger told a state legislative committee that no-excuse absentee voting "makes no sense" when the state offers weeks of in-person early voting. The bill has nine co-sponsors.
— SB 72: Would "enhance" the process of discovering and removing deceased voters from voter registration records. According to Georgia Public Broadcasting, state law already requires the secretary of state's office to receive monthly updates of deaths and remove deceased voters. This new bill would push those requirements down to the county level. The bill has 11 co-sponsors.
— SB 73: Would only allow the secretary of state's office, county elections officials, candidates or candidate campaign committees to send out paper absentee ballot applications to voters. That would mean third-party and nonprofit groups would not be able to send mailers from either party. The bill has 13 co-sponsors.
— SB 74: Would expand access for partisan poll watchers to view the vote-counting process, among other things.
An eighth bill — SB 67 — would require Georgians (those who are not military or overseas voters) to include either their driver's license or state ID number on the absentee voting application or include a photocopy of an acceptable voter ID they would need to show to vote in person. The bill has 26 sponsors. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by freshman lawmaker Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas.
On the other side of the aisle, Georgia Democrats introduced a bill that would make Election Day a holiday. It has 20 co-sponsors.
Mullis was among a number of Georgia Republicans to criticize certain counties and cities in Georgia for what he called "lawlessness by the far left" as mail-in ballots were counted after Election Day in November.
On Nov. 5, Mullis released a statement thanking poll workers in Northwest Georgia for upholding the integrity of the election. He then said other parts of the state weren't doing the same.
"From allegedly counting ballots that arrived late in Chatham County, to dismissing poll watchers in Fulton County then [resuming] so called vote counting, to other suspect events in the metro-Atlanta area, the actions to undermine and steal this election by Democrat operatives is appalling," Mullis said. "Actions just like this are taking place all over America. Some states are not even allowing poll watchers to view the counting process and we have seen ballots from people who have been deceased."
At the time of Mullis' statement, a Chatham County Superior Court judge had already thrown out a lawsuit brought by then-President Donald Trump and the state GOP that alleged votes came in late. They all came in on time, according to the judge.
The Georgia Secretary of State's Office reported two people who were deceased cast ballots, including one from Dade County.
Mullis was also one of dozens of Republicans from Georgia who signed onto Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's failed lawsuit, found to be filled with inaccuracies, that sought to invalidate Georgia's votes in the presidential election before the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Nov. 13, Mullis made another statement when the Associated Press declared Joe Biden the winner of Georgia's electoral votes.
"I think it is important to remember that until the re-count(s) are completed, and legal challenges are settled, the results in Georgia are not final," Mullis wrote at the time. "This is simply another attempt by the fake news media to pressure conservatives into submission. Media elitists don't decide our elections, the people do."
Three recounts were made soon after, every lawsuit filed by Trump's legal team in Georgia was dropped and the people of Georgia did indeed elect Joe Biden, as well as Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
"I hope that these bills will serve as a starting point to begin the conversation on how we can improve elections in our state," Mullis said.
Contact Patrick Filbin at email@example.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.