As Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is the best form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Well, Churchill’s ghost would have been proud of America the other night as hundreds of thousands of citizens in Arizona had to deal with another example of the huge clusterf*ck that our democracy has become.
Leading up to the election, Maricopa County (home to Arizona’s largest city of Phoenix), placed a priority on having citizens vote-by-mail in an effort to lessen the number of people who would physically cast a ballot on election day. By making this push, Maricopa County officials believed that Tuesday night’s primary election wouldn’t need as many polling sites as they had in 2012, so officials decided to reduce the number of polling stations from 2oo down to 60.
Can you see where I’m going with this?
So, of course turnout on Tuesday night massively exceeded what was expected with almost three times as many people voting in 2016 when compared to 2008 and this, predictably, led to complete and utter chaos.
There ended up being one polling site for every 21,000 voters, and if you’ve ever attended a professional sporting event then you know how chaotic it can be when entering the stadium. Now, instead of multiple entrances, imagine one single line stretching miles around the block for up to five hours and you’ve perfectly encapsulated just what our friends in Arizona had to endure. Many voters had to give up a whole day of work simply to vote, and countless others called it quits after struggling to find parking or just being fed up with waiting in line for hours.
Some folks even ordered pizza, since asking one’s spouse to wait up after midnight to make them their Tuesday night meatloaf seemed slightly unrealistic.
This unmitigated disaster in Arizona is a direct result of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court case of 2013 that essentially gutted the long-standing Voting Rights Act.
Since that decision, states led by Republican governors have done everything in their power to legally disenfranchise people of color, because well if “those” people can vote then they’d most likely vote Democratic and that would be bad. The state of Arizona, previously led by Republican Governor Jan Brewer and now led by Republican Governor Doug Ducey, no longer needed federal approval to reduce the number of polling sites after the Supreme Court ruling, so they took full advantage of this newfound opportunity.
In fact, the areas hit hardest by reduced polling locations were heavily Latino, with some Latino residents not even having a polling location in their neighborhood district. This was carefully planned and was no accident.
The reaction to the Arizona primary disaster has been powerful to say the least. The Arizona Republic newspaper called it “shameful,” while presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called the entire evening a “disgrace.”
Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell took the blame for the evening, but has refused to resign despite Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton issuing a request for a Department of Justice investigation. The ACLU chapter of Arizona has reportedly received 50 complaints about the process and they are expected to look into the matter as well. Even with a decent percentage of voters voting by mail, the overwhelming consensus is that with record turnout having been a constant of this year’s primary season thus far.
Maricopa County should have been much more realistic in providing in-person polling stations for the county’s residents on primary day.
Or, at the very least, had the polling stations closer to take out restaurants.