Mar 25

Long Lines for Voters in AZ: Blame SCOTUS

The voters in Arizona’s heaviest populated district, and largest Latino population, Maricopa County faced waits as long as five hours. Why? Because of a lack of polling places. Why did they lack polling places? The Robert’s Supreme Court, when the conservative majority gutted by declaring the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 unconstitutional.

The Arizona Republic found that most counties in the state provided, on average, a polling place for every 2,500 eligible voters per polling site. In Maricopa County, which has a large Latino and Native American population, it was one site per every 21,000 voters.

After first laying blame on the county’s voters for showing up in droves on election day, Maricopa County election administrator Helen Purcell took responsibility, arguing that her department had incorrectly assumed almost all residents would vote by mail and was trying to be “cost-effective.”

Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo does not accept this explanation. [..]

Gallardo emphasized that everything the county spends on running an elections is reimbursed by the state, and that the state would have paid the full cost had the county kept all 200 polling places open for residents. “So I don’t want our county to use money as an excuse,” he said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions, and election officials owe Maricopa County an explanation.”

Gallardo and other state and federal officials are now looking into whether the poll closures suppressed the votes of people of color — either intentionally or inadvertently. He says the fiasco demonstrates the need for restoring federal oversight of the state’s elections, which was lost when the Supreme Court voted to gut the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Prior to the 2013 ruling, Arizona and a handful of other states that have a history of racial voter suppression had to seek permission from the justice Department before shuting down polling places, implementing a strict voter ID law, and making other changes. Now, it’s a free for all.