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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona sued over presidential preference election woes

Sam Gross
Bernie Sanders speaks rally in Tucson Convention Center on March 18.

The Democratic National Committee and the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton announced on April 14 they are suing the state of Arizona over the voting techniques and delays that took place on the day of Arizona’s presidential preference election.

Maricopa County, which includes the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, was and still is in the national spotlight for what some have called voter fraud and voter suppression during the presidential preference election on March 22.

Arizona’s day in the national political spotlight was marred by excessively long voter lines, a lack of polling stations and an arguable inaccessibility of polling stations for some communities. A lion’s share of these issues were reported in Maricopa Country in particular.

Republican candidate Donald Trump won Arizona’s Republican delegates and Clinton took home the majority of delegates up for grabs in the Democratic vote.

Arizona’s preference election was a closed vote, meaning only “recognized parties” could participate. Democrats, Republicans and Green Party members were eligible to participate, but independents were ineligible to vote.

Many voters who had switched to one of the eligible parties prior to the Feb. 22 registration deadline also reported being told they were a part of an ineligible party when they arrived at their polling station. Most said they were turned away or given absentee ballots instead.

Long lines and voter misregistration are just some of the problems cited in the lawsuit. The DNC, one of the primary drivers behind the lawsuit, declined to make a comment after being contacted by the Daily Wildcat.

Defendants named in the suit include Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell.

“I can’t fully make a statement about everything that is happening with the suit, but I will say the provisions the Democratic Party has asked for come from the state,” said Elizabeth Bartholomew, executive assistant to Purcell. “The courts are in charge of everything. We are not in charge of legislative changes. The polling locations for this primary had been pre-cleared by the Department of Justice.”

Purcell took responsibilty for the blame but will not resign over the mistakes made, according to AZCentral. Purcell admited there should have been more than 60 polling centers in Maricopa County, considering every year there are higher volumes of wait times and voters.

The Justice Department will also be involved during the suit and will be looking closely at Purcell’s office.

The suit claims the poll problems violated the 14th Amendment and Voting Rights Act.

“We are very much disappointed in what has happened. The fiasco was horrible on the day of the primary,” said Enrique Gutierrez, communications director of the Arizona Democratic Party. “We are looking for three main improvements: for there to be more oversight over Maricopa County, we want the ban to be lifted off bill HB 223 and, most importantly, to expand the polling locations and options in the county.”

Many voters had to wait up to five hours and those involved in the suit said they believe the wait is attributable to the lack of polling centers open in Maricopa County.

In 2012, 200 polling centers were open in Maricopa County. That number was reduced to 60 this year.

The DNC and both campaigns are taking action now in order to settle everything before the November election.

The biggest concern is minorities, who usually make up a large chunk of the democratic vote. Both Democratic candidates need extra votes in a state such as Arizona, which is historically a red-voting state.

Neither the Republican National Committee nor any Republican candidates in the national election have complained or filed suits over the Maricopa County voting mishap.

“We have yet to issue an official statement as of yet,” said Tim Sifert, director of communications for the Arizona Republican Party. “But I will say the meeting at the County Recorder’s Office had five officials deciding on the voting information for the Arizona Primary and one of those experienced officials is Steve Gallardo, a member of the Democratic party. The vote the officials made went through no problem.”

Follow Hannah Bloom on Twitter.

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