Residents of Maricopa County in Arizona faced what could only be called a voting nightmare on March 22 during the Democratic and Republican primaries. Residents reported lines up to five hours long, a lack of ballots, and even one report of overflowing toilets at voting centers. While nightmarish, the massive snafu in Maricopa County is not surprising. This is the most populous county in Arizona, and it has cut the number of polling places 85 percent since 2008.
The Democratic Party, in addition to the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns, have filed a lawsuit against the state of Arizona over voter access to the polls. The lawsuit claims that an untold number of voters were effectively disenfranchised because they were “unable or unwilling to wait in intolerably long lines.”
The suit alleges that Maricopa County’s black, Hispanic and Native American communities were disproportionately affected, since they had fewer polling locations than white communities — if they had places to vote at all.
Before 2013, the Voting Rights Act would have required Arizona and several other states to pre-approve any changes to election law or procedure with federal officials. The law was effectively gutted in 2013, when the Supreme Court ruled that the formula for determining which jurisdictions were covered by the requirement was unconstitutional. Since then several state and local authorities have been accused of imposing onerous voting restrictions on their residents.
The elections lawyer for Clinton’s presidential campaign is suing Arizona, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin and North Carolina over voting issues following cases in those states.
This will be the first presidential election since the Voting Rights Act was gutted. For many, this will be their first time voting, and given that jurisdictions tend not to publicize the changes in voting locations, polling times, and what type of ID, if any, is needed, it is likely that more cases like Arizona’s will occur. These voting issues are much more likely to affect communities of color, who, historically, tend to vote Democratic.