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Data Suggests Arizona Voting Problems Hit Poorer Voters Hardest, Sanders Supporters File Suit

Updated on April 9, 2016
Polling place at Scottsdale and Cactus roads, Phoenix
Polling place at Scottsdale and Cactus roads, Phoenix

Claiming that up to 150,000 people may have been impacted by the now widely-reported voting fiasco in the Arizona Democratic presidential primary, a citizens' group has filed a lawsuit against AZ election officials. Demands for redress in the lawsuit include a demand that the primary be held over properly during a special election already scheduled for May 17th.

In reporting on the lawsuit, the Arizona Republic newspaper has published data which seems to indicate that the longest lines and wait times to vote were experienced in areas of Phoenix with lower median household incomes. Problems were reported across the state, but Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and 60% of the state's population, took the lead when it came to problems voting.

The lawsuit contends that the end result of the primary, seen as a must-win for Hillary Clinton, might have been far different had all properly registered voters who wished to, had a chance to vote. As it occurred, large uncounted numbers of voters did not or could not wait the long hours in line, in some cases up to six hours, in order to vote.

In an interactive map, the Arizona Republic compiles a set of data which correlates wait times in line to vote, indicated by how long after the official 7pm closing time each polling station remained open, with median household income in the area. Although a rigorous statistical analysis has not yet been performed, a cursory scan of the data seems to show, with scattered exceptions, the longest wait times occurring toward the areas of south and central Phoenix, with one polling station closing after 1am.

The Arizona Republic reports in "Lawsuit seeks to overturn Arizona's presidential preference election":

"A Pima County voter active in Democratic causes has sued elections officials over the presidential preference election, citing numerous irregularities in the March 22 contest. The lawsuit, filed Friday afternoon in Maricopa County Superior Court, alleges elections officials allowed votes to be cast illegally, cites numerous instances of misconduct and charges there were errors in vote counting. The suit seeks to overturn the election certification and any other relief the court might find necessary."

And claiming evidence of voter disenfranchisement according to ethnic background, which in Arizona means large numbers of Hispanic voters, the Mayor of the City of Phoenix, Loretta Lynch, has written in a letter to the US Attorney General:

""The ratios were far more favorable in predominantly Anglo communities: In Cave Creek/Carefree, there was one polling location for 8,500 residents; in Paradise Valley, one for 13,000 residents; in Fountain Hills, one for 22,500 residents; and in Peoria, one for every 54,000 residents."

The lawsuit also alleges that thousands of voter registrations for people wanting to vote in the Democratic primary were incorrectly listed, so that they could not obtain a Democratic primary ballot.

Image of Arizona Republic interactive.
Image of Arizona Republic interactive.


Finally, the plaintiff in the lawsuit notes that final official turnout in the Democratic primary was disappointingly low, even though thousands waited in line to vote, and early ballot returns that day indicated that turnout would be extremely high. Voter turnout has been a key component of the Sanders strategy to win, with Sanders saying as recently as the Wisconsin primary:

"When there is a large voter turnout, when working people -- many of whom have given up on the political process -- come back in, reclaim their democracy, and stand up and fight back, then we win,"

The Arizona Republic reported that day:

"If early ballot returns are any indication, Arizona is on track for high voter turnout for Tuesday's presidential primary."

But Democratic turnout in AZ was reported out by the state to be around 406,000 voters, about 50,000 less than the number who voted in 2008. The citizens' group behind the lawsuit, AUDIT-AZ, says:

"The reported numbers for Arizona’s statewide election day turnout simply do not add up."

Another Democratic primary lawsuit has also been filed in Massachusetts, alleging that Bill Clinton "diluted" the votes of MA Sanders voters by illegally campaigning in and near polling stations in violation of state law, and blocked voters' access to polling stations at various times during the primary day with his security perimeter and detail. Each state where legal action has been taken, AZ and MA, were deemed critical turning points in the primary that Hillary could not afford to lose, or momentum would be ceded to Sanders.

The Arizona lawsuit comes as the Democratic primary contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton enters critical New York state. A strong showing by Sanders there would upset the delegate math which has cast him as the longshot underdog, and make him the candidate to watch as the contest moves to California and other delegate-rich states.

(Disclosure: The author is a supporter of MA Voters and Volunteers Disenfranchised by Bill Clinton.)

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