Who's not investigating AZ's polling problems?

Posted at 8:31 PM, Mar 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-25 15:15:44-04

At this point, who's not investigating Arizona's polling problems?!

Whether Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell expected it or not, her polling place consolidation plan disenfranchised people, and that has triggered calls for investigations, lawsuits, and reforms.

"I have been doing this for 27 years," said Purcell. "My thing has always been to bring out as many voters as we possibly can."

Purcell reduced the polling places from 200 for the last presidential preference election in 2012 to just 60 in 2016. She said she had originally planned for low in-person turnout because so many people are voting by mail. 

With just days to go before the vote, Arizona's relevance in the primary and heavy presidential candidate campaigning changed those predictions.  

When voters originally saw long lines, they suspected record turnout. However, in-person voting reached just 83,000. That was far below the 250,000 who voted in the 2008 presidential preference election and just higher than the 64,000 Election Day voters in a much less competitive 2012 race.    

"Let's be clear voter suppression happened," said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D - Phoenix. "It affects a lot of people, but it's going to disproportionately affect poor people and people of color in terms of being able to drive somewhere or to be able to have the time to sit there and wait for it"

"A five-hour delay causes you to consider whether there are ADA concerns," state Democratic Party legal counsel Jim Barton said. "Obviously a person who is otherly-abled is not going to be able to stand in line five hours for a ballot. 

Democratic Party officials say they are going through thousands of complaints they received from voters, and they will decide next week whether to file a formal complaint with the Justice Department or whether to file a voting rights lawsuit. 

"If they think they have grounds to doing that, Purcell said, I can't stop anyone from doing that." 

Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton wrote a letter to the Department of Justice Wednesday to request an investigation.

Arizona's Attorney General says he wants the legislature to consider a bill to delay the release of election results until all voters have voted and polling locations are closed. Early voting results were released at 8 p.m. Tuesday, and news agencies announced the winners while thousands of people were still in line. 

State Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, was waiting in line past midnight to cast her ballot. She is preparing emergency legislation to make sure there will always be enough polling places effective immediately.

"We should have been prepared," Yee said. "So we are looking for bills that would be germane to add an amendment to ensure counties greater than 800,00 individuals, which are our two biggest counties, would have a minimum number of polling locations so we never go below that number.

A legislative committee will hold a hearing Monday to investigate Maricopa County's polling problems, and Secretary of State Michele Reagan will announce a series of public hearings next week.

With the next statewide election looming on May 17, Purcell says she is already working to double the number of voting centers from 60 to 120.

"That's a little bit difficult to do to find the polling places and the board workers to do that in this short of time, but we have made every effort," said Purcell.