If you know anyone who voted in the Arizona primary in Maricopa County last week you probably heard complaints that they waited in long lines to do so.
Some polling places had waits as long as four or five hours and in some cases those who waited were ultimately denied the opportunity to vote. The Maricopa County Recorder, Helen Purcell, has publicly said that she was responsible for the voting problems, and some Arizonans are now demanding that she step down.
The situation was particularly bad in Latino voting districts. State Senator Martin Quezada told the Arizona Republic that in his entire senatorial district “there is only one polling place. In my neighboring district, there are no polling places.”
In the entire county of over 4 million people there were only 60 polling places. By comparison, Apache County with only 40,000 voters had 41 polling places and Navajo County with 42,000 voters had 38.
Maricopa County is, of course, the home of America’s Most Anti-Immigrant Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. The county has long been hostile to its Latino citizens. Arizona’s pattern of discrimination against non-white voters had led to it being placed on a list of 8 states in the Voting Rights Act that had to secure Federal approval before reducing the number of polling places.
Because the Supreme Court overruled that section of the Voting Rights Act, Maricopa County sharply reduced the number of polling places without needing Federal approval. So, without consulting anyone, the county reduced the number of polling places from 200 in 2012 to 60 this year.
Analysis from Arizona’s largest newspaper shows that the polling places were scarcest in Latino neighborhoods. The situation was so bad that some in Arizona are accusing Purcell and the Republican Party of trying to suppress the Latino vote.
According to the study by the Arizona Republic: “While both rich and poor areas were hurt by a lack of polling sites this year, a wide swath of predominantly minority and lower-income areas in west Phoenix and east Glendale, along with south Phoenix, were particularly lacking in polling sites compared with 2012. Poorer areas of east and west Mesa lacked polling sites as well, as did south Avondale and much of Goodyear.”
The Mayor of Phoenix has asked the Federal government to investigate the alleged voter suppression.