There’s no excuse for voting to be this difficult

John Kasich came in fourth place in a three-man race last night, finishing behind former candidate Marco Rubio in Arizona. Rubio had banked a large enough number of votes during the early voting period to eclipse Kasich’s overall total.

That many Arizonans cast a vote for a candidate who dropped out before Election Day led many conservatives to suggest that early voting is silly and bad, as it locks voters into decisions that they may regret a couple of weeks later.

Of course, the same could be said of sequential primaries in the first place — How many Iowans who caucused for Carly Fiorina do you think would like to have their votes back? — but that isn’t the real reason why conservatives were critical of early voting last night. Instead, the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg summed up the case in one tweet:

To be fair, Goldberg did present a few more issues with early voting in his tweetstorm. To be fairer, these issues were either weak (Deadlines are clarifying? Election Day is still a thing that exists. New facts matter? Again, see the issues with sequential primaries.) or restatements of the sentiment that voting should be more difficult (“Voter convenience shouldn’t trump civic ritual“).

Setting aside for the moment that Goldberg’s tweet goes from noble to horrific when you swap voting with any other right — “Practicing your religion should be more difficult, so people will value it more (though I do favor moving services to weekend),” e.g. — one need only look at the same Arizona primary Goldberg’s complaining about to see why he’s.

Can't Vote, via Daniel Lobo / Flickr

Can’t Vote, via Daniel Lobo / Flickr

That’s because voting was indeed difficult yesterday, and it didn’t lead people to magically value their votes more. Instead, it forced many to give up on voting altogether.

In an attempt to save costs, Maricopa County — which includes Phoenix, making it the largest county in the state — cut the number of primary polling locations from 200 in 2012 to 60 this year. This led to lines at the polls so long that people were still in line by the time the Democratic and Republican primary races had been called for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively. Many would-be voters reported not being able to wait multiple hours at the polls, for either personal or economic reasons. Some left and came back later, hoping to find a shorter line. Some simply left altogether. The last voter in Phoenix cast their ballot at 12:12 AM — over five hours after polls had officially closed. It’s impossible to tell how many more people would have voted if the lines had been shorter.

This phenomenon has not been unique to Arizona, and isn’t limited to cutting back on polling locations. In states with new voter ID laws, such as North Carolina and Georgia, long lines arise due to the fact that it takes longer for each voter to check in. Furthermore, one couple in North Carolina reported that they were racially profiled when they tried to vote in their state’s primary, with a poll worker forcing the husband to spell his name (Rudravajhala) rather than simply checking his drivers license to make sure it matched the name on the voter rolls.

If we really wanted to, we could accept the premise that voting should be difficult out of some elitist desire for the plebs to go the extra mile to earn their rights. But we still wouldn’t be able to get around the fact that, in practice, making voting more difficult makes it disproportionately more difficult for low-income and non-white voters — i.e. those who can’t afford to stand in line for five hours and those who have not-exactly-illegitimate concerns as to whether their government wants their votes to count.

Voting is a right. Voting should be easy. There’s no excuse for voting to have been as difficult as it was for Arizonans last night. This really isn’t that complicated.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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