Photo courtesy Maricopa County Elections Department
Arizonans narrowly rejected an attempt to overhaul voter identification requirements for early ballots — which are used by more than 80% of voters — that critics said would have resulted in tens of thousands of ballots being rejected.
Proposition 309 would have required voters to include personally identifying information on early ballots and limited the forms of identification that could be used at polling sites on Election Day, both of which critics said would disenfranchise voters.
Unofficial election results show 50.4% of Arizona voters opposed the measure.
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Currently, voters are required to sign an affidavit on the green early ballot envelopes confirming, under penalty of perjury, that they’re registered to vote in that county and haven’t voted elsewhere. Under Prop. 309, voters would also have had to write in their birthdate and either the number on their state-issued ID card or the last four digits of their Social Security number.
A similar law enacted in Texas increased the number of absentee ballots rejected there by more than 1,300% during the state’s March primary election, when 13% of all mail-in ballots were tossed out because the voters didn’t precisely follow the new identification requirements.
But Texas’ early voting system is much smaller than in Arizona, where the vast majority of voters receive and cast early ballots. If 13% of Arizona early ballots were rejected like happened in Texas, it would mean nearly 396,000 ballots in the Grand Canyon State wouldn’t have been counted in 2020.
The ballot measure also would have changed identification requirements for Election Day voting. State law currently requires voters to show a photo ID to receive a ballot. Voters who don’t have one can instead present two documents that prove their identity and address, like a utility bill or a bank statement. Prop. 309 eliminated the provisions allowing alternate proof of identity, and instead limited identification to only a government-issued photo ID.
In response to the concern that not everyone may own a photo ID, the proposition would have mandated the Arizona Department of Transportation to provide free photo IDs to Arizona residents for voting purposes.
The proposal was touted as a solution to low-voter confidence in the electoral process and a way to combat voter fraud — an unproven Republican claim that has become party orthodoxy to bolster false accusations that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
“These reasonable policies established in Prop 309 will help restore voter confidence in the integrity of our elections by ensuring all Arizonans, no matter when, where, or how we vote, present ID when casting a ballot so that all legal votes — but only legal votes — are accepted and counted,” wrote Republican state Sen. J.D. Mesnard, who sponsored the bill that got Prop. 309 on the ballot.
There is no evidence supporting the belief that illegal immigrants helped sway the 2020 election, and reports claiming illegal immigrants cast millions of votes have been found to be baseless and flawed. Registering to vote in Arizona already requires a valid ID, and only citizens can legally vote in federal elections, under penalty of federal crimes.
Critics of Prop. 309 said the measure is unnecessary in a state with sufficiently effective safeguards against fraud, and the strict requirements would only serve to turn voters away. Older voters with expired IDs and younger voters who haven’t yet obtained them would be among those blocked from exercising their constitutional rights. Including identifying information on early ballots could lead to identity theft and result in higher rates of rejected ballots if small mistakes are made, added Pinny Sheoran, the president of the League of Women Voters in Arizona.
“Arizona already has strict voter ID laws and proof of citizenship requirements to register to vote, with felony consequences for falsifying forms. This measure intends to reduce further citizens’ access to the fundamental right to vote,” she wrote in a statement calling for voters to oppose the measure.
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