ARIZONA DAILY STAR
By C.J. Karamargin
By endorsing Proposition 200,
Arizona voters might have unwittingly put the
stamp of approval on a growing Election Day
trend: mail voting.
A top Pima County election
official expects more voters to rely on the U.S.
Postal Service rather than deal with the bother
of making sure they have proper identification
when they show up at the polls.
"People will not want the
hassle," said Pima County Recorder F. Ann
Prop. 200, the
anti-illegal-immigration initiative passed into
law last November, requires Arizona's 2.7
million voters to show proof of identity to cast
a ballot. That could mean a driver's license, a
passport or some other document with a name,
address and photograph.
A mail ballot is far simpler. It
requires only a signature.
"They exempted all the people who
vote by mail," Rodriguez said of the Protect
Arizona Now group that was the driving force
behind Prop. 200.
The first local test of the new
law comes on March 8 with elections in South
Tucson, Marana, Sahuarita and the Metropolitan
Water District. Early voting in those contests
A significantly larger pool of
voters is expected on May 17, when Tucson
decides the fate of a $142 million water bond
In the last election, about 35
percent of all ballots cast in Pima County were
mailed. In processing them, officials check the
signature on the ballot against the voter's
signature on the registration form kept by the
"This is the check that county
recorders already do," said Kevin Tyne, a deputy
secretary of state.
Tyne emphasized that because all
signatures are verified, voting by mail does not
amount to a loophole through which voters can
bypass the provisions of Prop. 200.
"They already verify each and
every signature," he said.
Rodriguez and Arizona's other 14
county recorders met in Phoenix on Wednesday to
decide how to apply the new law. After the
meeting, she said confusing questions persist
about a number of issues, such as whether a
driver's license is valid proof of citizenship.
"My suggestion was that they take
a group picture of us now and another one a year
from now so we can see how much we age dealing
with this thing," she joked.
Rodriguez is not alone in
believing that Prop. 200 could spur a surge in
"People could be really offended
if they have to show ID when they never had to
before," said Dan Eckstrom, a former Pima County
supervisor and former mayor of South Tucson.
"For the older, regular voters, the people who
vote all the time, they could say, 'If I never
had to this before, why should I do it now?' "
An even bigger concern, Eckstrom
added, is that the frustration could prompt some
to not vote at all.
"It's hard to say what's going to
happen," he said.
While Prop. 200's voting
provisions were cleared by the U.S. Justice
Department last month, one local human rights
group remains concerned it will impose barriers
to voting on people of color and the elderly,
among others. Derechos Humanos is spearheading
an effort to overturn the decision.
"Federal voting rights laws
guarantee that no person shall be denied the
right to vote on account of race or color," the
group wrote in an e-mail. "Prop. 200 will
disenfranchise many citizens."
Backers of the proposition say
the goal is to prevent non-citizens from voting.
The initiative also makes Arizona the first
state to require proof of citizenship when
registering to vote. It also makes it a crime if
public employees fail to report an illegal
immigrant seeking benefits.
Tucson resident Alden Gates said
he has no problem showing his ID when voting, so
the law probably won't keep him from casting a
ballot at his neighborhood polling place.
"I like to see my ballot go into
the collection box," he said. "If I mail it in,
I'll never know for sure if it gets counted."
Same for Marilyn Malone, who
voted by mail last November but prefers to vote
in person. "It won't change my behavior," she
said. "I love going to the polls. It makes me
Voting by mail has grown in
popularity in recent years as voters realized
its convenience. Ballots can be completed at
home well before an election, without having to
deal with the lines or bother of going to a
This, in turn, has had an impact
on campaigning as politicians running for office
are forced to contend with the increasing number
of voters who make up their minds well before
Election Day. Mail voting also is appreciated by
political parties, which candidates rely on to
organize get-out-the vote efforts.
"It allows us to lock up the base
early," said Judi White, chairwoman of the Pima
County Republican Party.
"Many older voters will vote by
mail, people with careers who are busy, a lot of
people will be doing this," she said.
In the last election, 156,293
county voters took advantage of mail voting out
of 448,050 total ballots cast, Rodriguez said.
Partly because of the growth in
mail voting, Rodriguez supports a bill that has
been introduced in the state Senate that would
allow voters to be put on "permanent early
ballot status." Voters now must request a mail
ballot for each election in which they plan to
"This bill saves taxpayers money
and it's a convenience for voters," she said.
Some jurisdictions have decided
to conduct only mail balloting. That will be the
case in Sahuarita on March 8, when voters pick
members of the town council. South Tucson and
Marana will also vote for council members, while
the Metro Water District has a bond election.