Voter Suppression Rocks Arizona: Maricopa County Closes 85 Percent Of Polling Stations


As it turns out, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder isn’t the only person in government who’s staggering error in judgment seeking to cut costs has resulted in a foul-up so anger-inducing that WTFs are flying across social media almost as frequently as Donald Trump insults.

According to CNN, “Liberal activists are demanding an investigation into what they see as possible voter suppression as a result of Maricopa County officials’ decision to reduce the number of polling stations” from 200, all the way down to 60, in an effort to allegedly “cut costs.”

Those activists watchdogging the primary vote in the Grand Canyon State are holding a press conference Wednesday where they intend to point out how the exceptionally long lines, as a result of the reduction in polling places, caused some to give up their vote and go on home, or back to work. Others had to give up an entire day of work while waiting in line to cast their vote, as U.S. Uncut reports. Many, no doubt, considered walking away several times, but pushed themselves to persevere. One man, as reported on NPR, even ordered a pizza for dinner while in line, he had to stand there so long.

Not being one to listen to valid criticism, however, Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell (R) defended the county’s decision to close more than half the polling locations in the county, arguing that “voters could have voted via early ballots rather than risking waiting in line.” County officials claim there had been less demand for polling places due to voters casting their votes by mail in past years.

Okay, sure… maybe—but by 85 percent?

Purcell stated:

‘They’re not to blame for standing in line. But they went to the polling places. They could have voted early or that was their option in this instance. I don’t mean to blame voters. I think it’s wonderful voters went to the polls.’

Purcell went on to state that polling stations that were closed this year were selected for closure due to “high mail-in ballot returns” in the past.

Okay, once again… sure—but by 85 percent? Did 85 percent of voters in those districts mail in their votes in past years? That seems incredibly unlikely.

The point, however, regardless, is to give voters as many options as possible to make voting as accessible as possible. Pushing one method while shutting down more than half of another is not the kind of “help” voters need to get their votes in. If cutting costs is all that seems to matter in this country, why not move voting entirely online and allow folks to do it from home? Make it a national holiday so folks can make a day of it and get involved in the patriotic duty of their country.

Of course, most of us know the reasons why that’s not happening, nor will it anytime soon.

Not only did the polls drop from the 200 polling stations used in the 2012 election down to 60, Tuesday, but that 200 was already a reduction by half compared to the 400 that were available to voters in the 2008 election.

Even if one wishes to give Purcell’s argument the benefit of the doubt, when compared over the last eight years, the Maricopa County Recorder’s defense  of the reduction in polling places gets tougher and tougher to swallow. Polling places have been reduced by 85 percent in Maricopa County since President Obama was elected. It doesn’t take Velma or a box of Scooby Snacks to see something doesn’t look quite right there.

Bernie Sanders supporter and Arizona State Sen. Martin Quezada (D) tweeted regarding the polling shortage fiasco:

‘If U are standing in very long line to cast your ballot today, this is what @AZGOP’s claimed imaginary voter suppression looks like #AZVotes.’

Meanwhile, the Arizona Democratic Party is requesting any democratic voters who experienced issues at the polls to fill out a form online explaining what occurred. All information collected is intended to be given to Arizona’s Secretary of State, Michele Reagan (R).

Those outspoken on the issue of decreased polling stations claim the stark reduction “left some residents completely lacking any or only one polling location in their neighborhood.”

One post on Arizona Black Voter Alliances’ Facebook page states:

‘Voting is a right not a privilege—it should be fair and accessible to all our people.’

Curious to know what voter suppression looks like? Today was the Presidential Preferential elections, lines were long,…

Posted by Arizona Black Voter Initiative on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Of course, this issue didn’t irk Democrats alone. Republicans were forced to wait in long lines, too. According to “the state’s largest paper,” the Arizona Republic, voters “waited in line more than five hours to vote in an election with high stakes for their country.”

The Republic also pointed out that Pima County, Arizona, only has a quarter of the registered voters as Maricopa County, but had more than twice the number of polling stations open, operating 130 locations, Tuesday.

“That led to ease of voting in the southern part of our state, and disaster in urban Phoenix,” the Republic’s editorial board writes.

Thankfully, Purcell claims she is open to re-evaluating the choice to reduce polling locations by so great a number in Maricopa County. She stated:

‘We will certainly look at this and see if we need to do something different.’

Great! That hardly helps anyone this election, though, now does it?

Featured image by Mark Wilson via Getty Images.