Arizona Free Enterprise Club Backs New Voting Requirements
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- An organization that is trying to block a public vote on the tax cuts approved by Republican lawmakers now is funding an initiative to impose new restrictions on voters before they can cast a ballot.
The proposal by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club would add a requirement that anyone dropping a ballot in the mail also provide a date of birth and other identification like a driver's license number or the last four digits of a social security number.
That same requirement would apply to those who drop off their early ballots at polling places.
All that is in addition to the current requirement for a signature.
That is the only thing that county election officials now use, comparing it to what is on file to determine whether the person submitting the ballot is the person to whom it was sent.
It also would say that family members who return someone else's early ballot -- something still permitted despite new laws against "ballot harvesting'' -- also have to provide some identification.
The measure, if approved by voters, also would affect those who actually show up at the polls.
Arizona law already requires identification for those who vote in person.
But it permits those who do not have photo ID to instead get a ballot after presenting two other items with things that have their current address like utility bills, bank statements, tribal enrollment cards or vehicle registration cards. The initiative would eliminate that option.
Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said Tuesday the changes are necessary to restore voter confidence.
"It is undeniable that hundreds of thousands of people have lost faith in the election system,'' he said.
And Mesnard said it's "immaterial'' if some of that doubt is because there are people from his own political party are making claims that the election was stolen and Donald Trump really won.
"Right now, at this moment, what do people feel about the election,'' he said.
Anyway, Mesnard said, he would push for additional voter ID requirements because it's good policy.
"Quite frankly, even if no one had raised any issue about the election we should always be vigilant about making sure it is secure,'' he said.
Sponsors need 237,645 valid signatures by July 7 to put the issue on the 2022 ballot.
Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, said the idea of additional identification requirements is supported by a majority of the legislature.
That, however, is up for debate.
The requirements for voter ID on early ballots, sponsored by Mesnard, was approved earlier this year by the Senate. But SB 1713 failed to become law after two House Republicans sided with all 29 Democrats in the 60-member chamber amid concerns that it would erect new and unnecessary hurdles.
Legislative support aside, Hoffman said polling shows that Arizonans of all races and parties support voter-ID requirements.
Campaign materials list the source of funding from the Free Enterprise Club.
That is also the organization that is trying to convince a judge to kill a referendum drive seeking a public vote on the $1.9 billion in tax cuts, mainly to benefit the wealthy, that were enacted earlier this year by the Republican-controlled legislature.
Attorneys for the organization contend that there is no constitutional right of voters to second-guess any changes in tax law.
Mussi on Tuesday declined to spell out where his organization is getting its funding for the voter ID initiative or how much it intends to spend both to get the signatures to put the issue on the 2022 ballot and then to convince voters to approve it.
House Majority Leader Ben Toma, R-Peoria, said the idea of voter identification is hardly radical. He said no one would expect to be able to open a bank account or even check their balance online without providing some verification of identity.
Toma also said that what's required on early ballots hardly presents a hurdle.
There's the option of the last four digits of the social security number.
"Everybody knows the last four of their social,'' he said. The same is true, said Toma, of someone's date of birth.
Mesnard said he understands arguments that some people may not have either an Arizona driver's license or a state-issued non-operator identification card, both of which cost money.
He said that's why the initiative includes a requirement for the Motor Vehicle Division to issue an ID card, without cost, to anyone who says he or she needs it to register or vote.