Photo by Jim Small | Arizona Mirror
Arizona voters will decide in November whether they should have to put more than a signature on their early ballots to prove their identities.
Voters who cast early ballots, the preferred method of voting for the overwhelming majority of Arizonans — an estimated 89% voted with early ballots in the 2020 general election — affirm their identities by signing an affidavit on the envelope they use to return their ballots. Election officials compare the signatures with others they have on record for those voters to confirm voters’ identities.
The House of Representatives on Monday approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 1012, which seeks to change those rules, on a party-line vote. The Senate has already approved it, so the House vote was the final approval it needed in order to go onto the November ballot as a proposition.
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If voters approve the measure in November, people who vote early will have to add something extra: their driver’s license number, state identification number, the last four digits of their Social Security number or their voter identification number. The affidavit would be concealed in the envelope used to return early ballots so that, unlike the signatures on the envelopes currently in use, the voter’s identifying information wouldn’t be visible from the outside.
Ballots that don’t include the information would not be counted.
The law, if approved, would also waive $12 cost of non-operating identification cards, which are state ID cards that don’t entitle a person to drive a vehicle
Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, sponsored a SCR1012 and ran a similar bill during the 2021 legislative session. That version died after two House Republicans, Reps. Joel John and Michelle Udall, voted against it. In response, Mesnard, other GOP lawmakers and the conservative Arizona Free Enterprise Club launched a citizen initiative campaign to put the issue on the ballot. But the preference was for the legislature to refer it instead, and the campaign had hired almost no petitioners to collect the 237,645 valid signatures it would have taken to put it on the ballot.
The initiative campaign became unnecessary on Monday when all 31 House Republicans voted for the measure.
“I’m thrilled the voters will have an opportunity to vote on this common sense voter ID legislation,” Mesnard told the Arizona Mirror after the vote.
This is barrier after hoop after lava pit after problem after more barriers. This is voter suppression.
– Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe
Voting by mail has become a popular target for Republicans, especially in the wake of the false allegations former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters made that his defeat in the 2020 election, including his loss to President Joe Biden in Arizona, were the result of fraud. Trump falsely told his supporters in the run-up to the election the voting by mail was insecure. Those suspicions became far more prevalent as a result of the “Big Lie,” as some call the fictional conspiracy theories about 2020. In Arizona, the largely debunked claims from the so-called “audit” of the election in Maricopa County helped fuel those allegations.
Elections officials view Arizona’s early voting system and similar systems in other states as highly secure. There have been a small number of cases stemming from the 2020 election in which people forged signatures on other people’s early ballot envelopes, largely other members of their households. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arizona announced on Monday that a Mohave County woman was sentenced for illegally casting her dead father’s ballot in 2018.
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said people who want to fraudulently cast other voters’ early ballots can find examples of their signatures at home if it’s a member of their household, online through documents on the county recorder’s website.
“This bill closes a weak link in the security chain of our election system,” Kavanagh said.
Democrats, however, accused Republicans of putting up unnecessary new barriers to fix a system that already works.
“This is not about voter ID, because we all agree voter ID works in Arizona,” said Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe. “Voter ID is fine. We respect and appreciate voter ID laws. But this, this is barrier after hoop after lava pit after problem after more barriers. This is voter suppression.”
Rep. Judy Schwiebert, D-Phoenix, noted that voters must already show identification in Arizona without the proposal. Arizonans must show ID to vote in-person, including at in-person early voting sites, and those who vote by mail still must provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.
“Democrats are not against showing voter identification. As a Democrat, I am pro-vote. I am for the freedom to vote. But this bill leads people astray. It suggests that it’s about making sure that people show identification, when in fact they already do show identification,” Schwiebert said. “This is just one more bill in a whole litany of bills that build upon the Big Lie that the last election was not conducted properly.”
Rep. Sarah Liguori, D-Phoenix, warned that the law could cause many more early ballots to be rejected. She pointed to the problems Texas has had in recent weeks with new restrictions on absentee voting that have led to an unprecedented number of absentee ballots being rejected.
In Arizona, election officials must attempt to contact voters if they’re unable to verify the signatures on their early ballot affidavits. Voters have up to five days after the election to “cure” the signatures on their early ballots. Under SCR1012, election officials would have to do the same for voters whose identification can’t be confirmed on their early ballots.
Other Democrats noted that Republicans have become increasingly hostile to early voting in general. Several proposed bills would eliminate early voting entirely in Arizona. The Arizona Republican Party on Monday filed a lawsuit alleging that the state’s 31-year-old no-excuse absentee voting system violates the Arizona Constitution.
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