A conservative organization wants Arizona voters to impose ID requirements for mailed ballots – the same idea that failed to make it through the Legislature this year.
The Free Enterprise Club and a group of Republican lawmakers announced their new initiative on the Senate lawn Tuesday afternoon against a backdrop of Trump supporters who shouted down reporters and yelled over state senators.
The bulk of the new initiative comes from a bill introduced by Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, who sought to introduce new ID requirements for mailed ballots after he voted by mail for the first time during the Covid pandemic last year. Mesnard was surprised when his mail ballot required him to sign the outside of his ballot envelope and asked him to provide a phone number on the envelope because that didn’t seem secure.
His bill, which failed in the House after two Republicans and every Democrat voted against it, would have required mailed ballots to contain a concealable affidavit for voters to list their birthdate and either their driver’s license number, state nonoperating identification card number, last four digits of their social security number, or, if the voter doesn’t have a license or social security number, a unique identifying number assigned at registration.
Anyone who drops off an early ballot in person would have to provide a photo ID, and the initiative would do away with the option for voters to provide two forms of non-photo IDs. Instead, they would need to present an ID with the correct address, or a photo ID with an incorrect or missing address and a secondary document, such as a utility bill or vehicle registration, with the voter’s current address.
Mesnard described the measure as common sense and said he believes most voters will agree with him.
“If you’re there in person, you need a photo that shows you’re you and you need an address that shows that’s your address that we have on file,” he said. “If you’re mailing it in, we’re not going to make you mail in photocopies of your license or whatever. All we’re saying is just do what you do when you’re talking to your bank on the phone. They’ll ask you for your date of birth and the last four of your social.”
House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who slow-walked Mesnard’s original bill in the House, said during an event Tuesday morning that he opposes the initiative. The underlying bill and its requirement that counties add affidavits to envelopes would add hundreds of hours to ballot counting in Maricopa County alone, and Bowers said that cost isn’t worth the proposed benefits.
“I’ll tell them ahead of time – I will not be in support of that,” he said.
The nonpartisan voter advocacy organization League of Women Voters, which opposed Mesnard’s original bill, will oppose the initiative, as well, advocacy chair Pinny Sheoran said. The League and its members, many of whom are poll workers, support the concept of having IDs to ensure people voting are eligible to vote, but they don’t support voter ID laws that create barriers to voting, she said.
“We’re asking people to go through a burdensome secondary ID process,” she said. “Where is the guarantee that once this very private information is in the hands of anyone who is opening the ballot, it won’t get misused?”
The proposed law that doesn’t go far enough for conservative activists who have made “election integrity” their key issue.
A crowd of “Stop the Steal” advocates, led by Daniel McCarthy, who lost the U.S. Senate primary last year, shouted over Mesnard as he tried to explain the initiative and answer questions. To McCarthy, the initiative is just an attempt to raise money instead of focusing on what he views as the most important ways to combat alleged election fraud: getting rid of ballot-tabulating machines and eliminating early voting.
“They’re not supporters,” Mesnard said. “They’re individuals who have an agenda and want lots of attention and took advantage of this environment. It’s difficult to police that. If people aren’t going to be civil or courteous with their fellow man, there’s only so much we can do.”
Supporters of the initiative have until July 7, 2022, to collect at least 237,645 valid signatures to get the proposal on the 2022 ballot.l