Republican-backed Arizona ballot measures target voter initiatives

Nov 1, 2022, 6:00 PM

(AP Photo, File/Matt York)...

(AP Photo, File/Matt York)

(AP Photo, File/Matt York)

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona voters who began mailing in their ballots after simply signing and dating the envelope in recent weeks might be doing so for the final time with that simple process.

That’s because one of 10 measures they’ll decide in the Nov. 8 midterm elections would change the rules for verifying that the people who mail in such ballots are who they say they are. Proposition 309 would also change how in-person voters are allowed to prove their identity.

Three other measures also placed on the ballot by Republicans who control the Legislature would make major changes to the citizen initiative process by making it harder for voters to bypass lawmakers and write their own laws. One would carve out major exemptions to the Voter Protection Act, which prevents the Legislature from changing voter-approved laws in most cases.

The four measures target early-voting and voter ID laws in the name of election security. They are priorities for Republicans, who have long chafed at the citizen initiative process.

The voting measure, Proposition 309, would require voters to write their birthdates and add state-issued voter identification numbers, driver license of identification numbers or a partial social security numbers to affidavits rather than just signing and dating them. The back-of-envelope signature used by many counties also would be changed to require that they be placed into a second envelope.

In-person voting requirements also would change, eliminating the ability of voters who don’t have a state, tribal or federal government-issued photo ID on them to vote by presenting two alternate documents, such as a utility bill.

Democrats and voting rights groups note that citizenship and other requirements for voting are already done during the voter registration process and that the changes would lead to more mail-in ballots being rejected and people being turned away at the polls. Republicans say they’re needed election security changes.

The three constitutional amendments targeting initiatives are Propositions 128, 129 and 132.

The first would free the Legislature from the Voter Protection Act’s ban on changing laws passed by initiative if any part of the measure is found by the state Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court to contain illegal or unconstitutional language. Currently, only that portion would be stricken, but if Proposition 128 passes, lawmakers could make wholesale changes or even repeal such laws.

Proposition 129 would limit initiatives to a single subject and require that all major parts of an initiative be explained in the title, voiding any part not explained there. Many initiatives that have already been enacted cover more than a single subject, and opponents say passage of Proposition 129 would limit comprehensive measures and lead to lawsuits challenging whether a measure truly only covers one subject.

Proposition 132 would raise the threshold from a simple majority to 60% of the vote to pass any ballot measure that would raise taxes or impose a fee. Proponents say that’s important since tax increases deserve greater support to pass, but opponents note that many initiatives contain fees or taxes to support their objectives, such as the Clean Elections Act, which funds candidates for office who forego private funding by using a 10% surcharge levied on all civil and criminal penalties.

At least two ballot measures this year — one that would raise taxes for rural fire districts and another that would limit interest and making other changes to debt owed by Arizonans — would need 60% of voter support in future elections if they pass.

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Republican-backed Arizona ballot measures target voter initiatives