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Politics PopWrapped | Politics

Arizona Primary Near Textbook Example Of Voter Disenfranchisement

Ashley Perna | PopWrapped Author

Ashley Perna

03/26/2016 7:45 am
PopWrapped | Politics
Arizona Primary Near Textbook Example Of Voter Disenfranchisement | Arizona primary
Media Courtesy of The Republic

Voters in Arizona, many of whom waited literally all day in long lines, justifiably feel that they were disenfranchised by the way the state grossly mishandled yesterday's primary. Between cost-cutting measures, an unacceptable amount of database errors, and various media outlets declaring winners with fewer than one percent of the precincts reporting, many residents believe their votes were suppressed.

Maricopa County, the most heavily populated county in the state, was the subject of the worst examples of voter suppression. Many voters had to wait over five hours in line to cast their votes, or to find out that database errors misidentified their political affiliation, meaning they were ineligible to cast a vote. Helen Purcell, a Republican, is the recorder for Maricopa County. In order to save costs, Purcell cut down on the number of poling stations on primary day from over 200 to 60. For comparison's sake, Pima County, which is about one-third of the size, had twice as many polling stations open. When speaking with a local reporter about the unacceptable wait times, Purcell actually blamed voters for lining up to vote. She backtracked in that same interview, suggesting that voters should have mailed in their ballots early to avoid lengthy wait times. While this does seem like an ideal solution, it doesn't allow for voters to fully obtain all information available to them prior to casting their votes. Purcell herself spoke of how candidates visited Arizona in the past "week to ten days" to meet with voters and campaign in the state. A voter who casts his or her ballot early may have missed the opportunity to educate themselves about what each candidate would do for Arizona itself, and perhaps would have wanted the chance to hear campaign promises and meet candidates before deciding how to cast his or her vote.

In Purcell's rush to cut costs, she seemed to have neglected to place polling stations in Latino communities. Senator Martin Quezada spoke to about the massive oversight, explaining why it was problematic.

In my district, there was only one polling place. In my neighboring district, LD 30, there are no polling places.

So, in addition to exceptionally lengthy lines, and wait times of up to five hours, some voters would also have had attend polling stations districts away from their homes or places of work.

Database errors across the state were to blame for further voter disenfranchisement. Arizona has a closed party system, which means that independent voters can only cast a vote using a provisional ballot. The problem with provisional ballots is that they aren't counted, meaning that computer errors misidentifying registered Democratic voters as independents or libertarian cost those citizens their right to vote.

One Election Day Technician, Kelly Thornton, said that approximately two-thirds of the voters she saw had been misidentified. Even after one voter showed her his card identifying him as a member of the Democratic party, he was still denied his vote. Her calls to the Arizona Democratic Party office went unreturned, and the disenfranchisement of countless Democratic voters continued. Thornton was given a script to read in the event someone asked about the provisional ballots, which read:

Every provisional ballot is checked for eligibility.

If you are registered as independent, other, party not designated, or libertarian you are not eligible for this election and therefore, by law, your vote cannot be counted.

Arizona Primary

US Uncut

This voter database error cost many lifelong Democrats, who had not experienced this issue in prior elections, their right to have their vote counted in the primaries.

Despite the fact that thousands still remained in line to cast their ballots, and the fact that fewer than one percent of the polling stations had reported their results, the media still called the state for Hilary Clinton. This move angered even more residents of Arizona, and those across the country.

This type of situation is why so many Americans feel that their voices won't be heard and their votes don't matter - because in many cases across Arizona, it turned out to be the truth. Bernie Sanders commented on the fiasco, calling it "a disgrace" and saying that "democracy is the foundation of our way of life". With so many obstacles to voting being placed in their way, and with many being denied their right to vote due to software errors after waiting for upwards of five hours, it's hard to continue believing in democracy as "the foundation" of the American way of life.

Many are demanding that an investigation begin on the wide-scale voter suppression across Arizona. A press conference is planned, and a petition was created, demanding an independent investigation into this near textbook example of voter disenfranchisement.


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