By Sarah Bradley
Proposition 309, the “Arizonans for Voter ID Act,” is on the ballot this November. Proposition 309 includes provisionsthat would affect the state’s voter identification laws and add additional requirements to mail-in voting affidavits. Proponents have stated that it will increase election security, while opponents have expressed worry about its effect on voter participation.
Arizona has allowed no-excuse mail-in voting since 1991, and—until recently—it has had significant bipartisan support. In 2007, the state legislature created the Permanent Early Voting List, which automatically sends a mail-in ballot for every election to every voter who opted in. 75% of Arizona voters are currently on the list. Early voting by mail is the most popular way to vote in Arizona, regularly used by more than 80% of Arizona voters. However, in the aftermath of the 2020 election, there has been a significant push to restrict, or even eliminate, mail-in voting in the state.
Proposition 309 adds additional requirements to the affidavit that mail-in voters must submit with their ballots. The affidavit would require the voter to provide an “early voter identification” number, their date of birth, and their signature. The early voter ID number can be (a) the voter’s driver’s license or nonoperating license ID number, (b) the last four digits of the voter’s social security number, or (c) the voter’s ID number from the statewide voter registration database. Current law only requires the individual to sign the affidavit. Election officials are currently required to confirm the signature and contact the voter regarding any inconsistencies. Proposition 309 would further require confirmation of the early voter ID number and date of birth.
Supporters of Proposition 309’s mail-in voting measures state that the current signature-only requirement is a critical vulnerability in the state’s mail-in voting system, and that the new addition creates parity between in-person and mail-in voters. They argue that the current system is overly permissive, allowing ballot harvesting and trafficking.
Detractors of the mail-in voting measures criticize them as being an invasion of privacy that would eliminate votes and drastically increase the time needed to verify ballots. They point out that the early voter ID number requirement prevents the ability to vote anonymously by linking the individual to their ballot, and that providing personal information increases opportunities for identity theft. Critics also highlight the likelihood that a high number of ballots would be discarded when returned without a completed affidavit, comparing Proposition 309 to a similar Texas law that caused about 13% of ballots—nearly 23,000 votes—to be thrown out in the state’s primary election earlier this year.
The Arizona Advisor Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has previously criticized the state’s current in-person voter ID requirements for being unnecessarily restrictive, but Proposition 309 would tighten the laws even further. The current law requires voters to present either a photo ID that includes their name and address, or a combination of two alternate forms of identification without photos, such as utility or credit card bills. Proposition 309 would require all in-person voters to present a photo ID in the form of an Arizona driver’s license or nonoperating identification license, a tribal enrollment card or other form of tribal identification issued by a tribal government, or a US government-issued ID—removing the provision that currently allows voters to present any state or local government-issued photo ID, such as municipal or student IDs, that include the voter’s name, photo, and address. The name and address of the voter on the ID must match the name and address in the voting precinct register. If the address on the photo ID does not match, or if the ID is a US military ID card or a valid passport without an address, the voter must also present an additional document containing the name and address of the voter.
Supporters of the additional photo ID restrictions argue that photo identification is already required in daily life, calling it a commonsense measure that would increase voter confidence. They have also pointed to the provision in the bill that allows a fee waiver for individuals obtaining a nonoperating license to meet photo ID requirements as proof that the requirement will not be overly burdensome.
Critics have stated that the ID requirements in place are already satisfactory, and that Proposition 309’s photo ID requirement only limits access to marginalized communities. Strict voter ID laws have been shown to impede millions of eligible voters nationally from accessing the polls, with a disproportionate impact on minorities, senior citizens, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students.
The Arizona County Recorders have opposed Proposition 309, calling it a solution in search of a problem. Other opponents include the Arizona Education Association, the League of Women Voters of Arizona, and the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, which represents more than 1,100 nonprofit organizations.