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Arizona’s rare rejection of voter ID law

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As testing grounds for election denialism go, you’d struggle to find better than Arizona in 2022. Despite its recent drift into swing-state status, Arizona’s Republican Party was taken over by extreme elements and nominated election deniers for every statewide office. And its defeated gubernatorial candidate, Kari Lake, looks like she might be the one big-name Republican to go whole-hog on baselessly claiming her election was stolen.

The verdict on the state GOP’s descent into denialism was already pretty clear, thanks to the losses of Lake and others like Senate nominee Blake Masters and secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem.

But don’t sleep on the latest result out of the state: voters’ highly unusual rejection of a voter ID ballot measure. Proposition 309 trails by less than one percentage point, but the Associated Press projected Wednesday night that it has been defeated.

Despite state Republicans’ focus on “election integrity,” it appears to be the first time in a decade that voters — in any state — have rejected stricter voter ID.

Arizona already has voter ID. But the ballot measure sought to force everyone voting in person to use photo identification, whereas the law currently allows those without photo ID to provide two alternate documents, such as a utility bill. For mail voters, the measure would have required them to record their birth dates and either voter identification numbers, driver’s license or identification card numbers, or a partial Social Security number. Currently, voters only need to sign and date.

The rejection is notable not only because of the GOP’s focus on voter fraud (despite the lack of evidence that it’s truly a significant or pervasive problem). It’s also notable because voter ID is something the vast majority of Americans support, at least at surface level: A January poll from Monmouth University found 80 percent of Americans supported “requiring voters to show a photo ID” in order to vote.

That number might overstate things: Some people might like the idea of voter ID in theory, but may not insist on a new rule strictly requiring a photo ID that not everyone has.

But the rejection is still rather historic.

Ten years ago appears to be the last time a state’s voters rejected a voter ID law put to them on the ballot, according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. Back in 2012, Minnesota voters rejected a measure that would have required photo ID, 54 percent to 46 percent.

But mostly, voters have been eager to sign off on strengthening such requirements:

  • Arizona voters in 2004 passed the current requirements. They did so by a 56-44 margin.
  • Oklahoma, by a whopping 74-26 margin, passed a law in 2010 that required either photo ID, or for the voter to sign a sworn statement while casting a provisional ballot. (Such laws generally allow those without photo IDs to cast provisional ballots, which require jumping through additional hoops to have your ballot counted.)
  • Missouri in 2016 voted 62-37 for a measure allowing the state government to require voter ID, though not necessarily photo ID.
  • In 2018, both Arkansas and North Carolina passed new laws by 79-21 and 55-45 margins, respectively. Each required photo ID to vote in person. (The North Carolina law has yet to be enforced, as it has been blocked by the courts and the state Supreme Court deliberates on whether the law was tainted by the state’s illegal gerrymander.)
  • And as recently as this past election, Nebraska voters by a 66-34 margin passed a measure to amend the state constitution to require photo ID.

Precisely why Arizona delivered this movement such an unusual defeat is complicated. There was a concerted push against the ballot measure, which opponents warned could disenfranchise voters. The Arizona Association of County Recorders, which represents local elections officials across the state’s 15 counties, opposed it. The association said it was too burdensome, could delay vote-counting and might even jeopardize voters’ data privacy by forcing them to transmit sensitive personal information through the mail.

And it also might have mattered that Arizona is a heavy vote-by-mail state, which meant voters didn’t necessarily see as much utility in requiring something to vote in person that isn’t required for voting by mail.

But the rejection of voter ID measures, often cast as the simplest ways to ensure election integrity, in a state where election denialism has been so pervasive shouldn’t be lost on anyone.

Voter ID has been on the march for years, most often courtesy of GOP-controlled state legislatures, but also, sometimes, thanks to voters themselves.

One needn’t be an election denier to support voter ID, but this was surely a measure of how responsive the public is to the kinds of election skepticism spouted by the Arizona GOP. That voters in Arizona decided this proposal went too far — in this place of all places and at this time of all times — is merely the latest indication that election denialism fell utterly flat in the 2022 election.



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Enzo Smith