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Long Lines in Arizona Signal Electoral Chaos; Voters of Color Face Steep Barriers to the Ballot

PHOENIX – During Tuesday’s primary election in Arizona, voters confronted lines lasting as long as five hours after a drastic reduction in polling sites. In Maricopa County, the largest county in the state and home to Phoenix, election officials cut polling places by 70 percent since 2012 – reducing 200 locations to just 60. While officials point to lack of funding and sparse volunteers, the reduction in polling sites would have likely faced scrutiny from the federal government had the protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) been in full effect. The U.S. Congress has yet to amend the VRA since the Supreme Court gutted the formula for federal preclearance of voting laws for states with a history of voter suppression – including Arizona – in 2013. Voters of color comprise 40 percent of Maricopa County’s voting population, and faced substantial barriers accessing polling sites on Tuesday. In response, the national racial justice organization Advancement Project released the following statement:

“The Arizona Constitution clearly states, ‘All elections shall be free and equal, and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage,’” said Shuya Ohno, campaign director for Advancement Project’s Right to Vote initiative. “This election was neither free nor fair for the thousands of voters across the county who had to sacrifice half their day to cast their ballot. The Maricopa County recorder and the State of Arizona failed their constituents during this primary election. Adding insult to injury, the very politicians who are responsible for running elections are laying blame for the barriers to voting that they themselves created on the voters commitment to fulfilling their civic duty to make their voices heard.”

“To be clear, the long lines were rampant in Maricopa County – voters across the region faced nearly insurmountable lines, and should be congratulated for their commitment to our democracy,” said Petra Falcón of Promise Arizona. “There is no excuse for the top elections officials to not have known, remembered, or expected the growing participation of Latino voters. We can all remember how four years ago in Maricopa County, voters in Latino communities had to wait for hours to vote, while many polling locations ran out of ballots. Turnout for that election was high, even after the county recorder repeatedly sent the wrong date to Latino voters. Our leaders should be clearing paths to the ballot box – not constructing barriers, or worse, eliminating polls all together. Drastic improvements need to be made to ensure that the fundamental right to vote is made free, fair and accessible to alleligible Arizona voters before the next election.”

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Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.

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