Voters haven't forgotten long lines in primary

Posted at 9:05 AM, Apr 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-10 12:05:16-04

The fiasco that was Arizona's primary election may be the only issue that voters across all parties agree on.

Democrats and Republicans alike in the state's largest county that's home to Phoenix are still incredulous over election officials' decision to operate 60 polling sites on March 22, down from the normal 200.

That created six-hour waits, voter registration mix-ups and voting after hearing a winner get called.

Another aggravating factor was many independent overs -- who were not allowed to vote in the closed primary but are the state's largest voting bloc -- went to the polls anyway. They cast provisional ballots, a process that takes on average five minutes.

While some voters called for the firing of county officials, many agree that at a minimum they have to do better.

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell has taken full responsibility but refused calls to quit. She said she grossly miscalculated turnout and voter interest. Gov. Doug Ducey is now supporting opening primaries to independents.

Secretary of State Michele Reagan, the state's top elections official, will hold public meetings beginning Monday on the primary.

Here are a few experiences from suburban Phoenix voters who went out and voted -- or at least tried to -- and their frustrations with the democratic process.


Ron Landon, 68, waited 4-1/2 hours to finally cast his vote for fellow Democrat, Hillary Clinton. But what he will remember is the man selling bottled water to people in line while a woman gave pallets of bottles away.

Landon said the experience has left him charged up about voting and making sure the county makes some changes, including firing county Elections Recorder Purcell. He said the lack of preparation really "shortchanges democracy."

"This is one of the most important functions of democracy that makes America what it is," Landon said. "If people are going to undersell voters like this or play these kinds of games, they do not deserve to be in the positions they're in."


The primary marked Clayton Varvel's first time voting. The Chandler student, 18, was looking forward to actually going down to the polls to physically vote as a kind of "homage to the past and the history of voting."

What he thought wouldn't take more than 30 minutes took nearly two hours. Varvel estimates a few hundred people were ahead of him. Many around him were visibly frustrated. He eventually cast his vote for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

He said people may walk away with the idea that election officials, in deciding to cut back on polling sites, were OK with longer lines. "In reality, they didn't see the collateral damage that a lot of people wouldn't be voting because of it," he said.


Melissa Dunmore, 26, double-checked that everything was in order before heading to the polls. She went on a state website and verified that she was correctly listed as a Democrat.

After an hour of waiting to vote, she finally reached the head of the line, where a poll worker told her she was coming up as not registered to any party. As a result, she could only cast a provisional ballot for Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Dunmore said she later confirmed with the elections office that she was a registered Democrat and that she shouldn't have been given a provisional ballot.

Still, even if her vote did not count, the symbolism of voting meant something. Her father is African-American, and remembers a time when nobody in his family could vote. "Even if the symbol is all we have, I'm gonna participate," Dunmore said.


Victoria Bryand, 34, received praise from others for sitting out a horrendously long line at a downtown Phoenix polling site.

After standing in heels for 30 minutes, Bryand remembered she still had camping chairs in her car. She shared them with two other women in line. During their four-hour wait, they got relief from strangers handing out bottled water and frosted animal cookies.

When her turn finally came, Bryand was told that she had no party affiliation. Polling workers could not be swayed by an email she had confirming that she had updated her voter registration for the Democratic Party.

She had to settle for a provisional ballot for Bernie Sanders, and later learned her vote wasn't counted.

"Ideally what I would like to see happen is to have somebody really investigate all the provisional votes that were not counted," Bryand said. "It would be interesting to find out what that data reveals."