Waiting to vote in the dark.
Voters Faced Chaos at the Polls
23 March 16
ast night’s primary in Arizona delivered big wins and sizable delegate hauls to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. While Bernie Sanders dominated the Democratic caucuses in Idaho and Utah, and Utah Republicans handed a win to Ted Cruz.
Republicans in the U.S. territory of American Samoa gave one delegate each to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
But with reports of three hour wait times, online glitches, and legal restrictions, the contests also highlighted serious voting rights problems in those states.
Arizona’s most populous county, home to Phoenix, cut its number of polling locations by 70 percent this year, so it was no surprise to see massive lines at the remaining polls during last night’s primary election. Some precincts ran out of ballots, while others saw some elderly voters give up and leave without voting.
Due to a history of racial voter suppression, this southwestern, Republican-controlled state was one of nine previous protected by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. Following that ruling, the state tried to force residents to show a proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, but that policy was blocked by federal courts.
Today, the state makes it more difficult to vote through a strict voter ID law, which does not accept student IDs as valid proof of identification. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey also signed legislation in March making it a felony for any group or individual to collect mail-in ballots from residents and turn them in. The governor said the measure would prevent voter fraud and ballot tampering, though there is no documented evidence of either problem.
Native American communities in Arizona also face barriers to voting. In order to register or vote early, tribal members have to drive up to four hours to reach a county office. The “permanent address” requirement for registering and voting also disenfranchises lower income residents who move from town to town for work, and low literacy rates among tribal members prevents many from participating. And though the state’s ID law allows tribal identification cards to be used for voting, many tribes don’t provide such cards to their members.
In past elections, the state has had one of the highest rates in the nation of rejected provisional ballots, causing the votes of tens of thousands of people to be thrown out in 2012 due to small errors like voting in the wrong precinct or forgetting to sign a ballot.
Like many states across the country, Arizona is also depending on aging voting machines whose glitches can lead to errors and exacerbate long lines at the polls.
Arizona has made its elections more accessible, however, by expanding in-person early voting and allowing residents to mail in their ballots before and on election day. This year, more than 1 million people cast a ballot early. The 60,000 people who voted early for Sen. Marco Rubio, who just dropped out of the 2016 race, may be disappointed that their ballot did not count.