Dem Party, Clinton campaign sue Arizona over lack of ballot access during March primary

Arizona is being sued over allegations that the state’s drastic reduction in the number of polling places produced long lines that effectively disenfranchised many would-be voters.

The lawsuit is being brought by Marc Elias, the lawyer who represents Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, the Arizona Democratic Party and a handful of Arizonan voters. The Clinton’s campaign, along with the campaign for Democratic Senate candidate Ann Kirkpatrick, are expected to sign on to the lawsuit after it is filed.

As the Washington Post reports, “The lawsuit, which will be filed on Friday, focuses on Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county, where voters faced the longest lines three weeks ago during the Democratic and Republican primaries after the county cut the number of polling places by 85 percent since 2008.”

There was one polling location for every 21,000 voters during the March 22 primary, leading to wait times as long as five hours. The last votes in Maricopa County were cast just after midnight — well after the time at which both the Democratic and Republican primary races had been called for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively. It’s impossible to say for sure how many more people would have voted had the lines at the polls been shorter.

Voting booth via Shutterstock

Voting booth via Shutterstock

According to the lawsuit, non-white communities were disproportionately affected by the polling location cutbacks, with some black and Latino communities in Maricopa County, the most populous county in the state, being completely devoid of places to vote.

The lawsuit doesn’t seek any retroactive changes to the primary. Rather, it calls on the U.S. District Court in Phoenix to review the state’s plans for conducting the general election in November, along with a review of other recent policies the state has passed that could potentially affect ballot access. Among those policies is the state’s recently-passed law that makes the collection of absentee ballots a felony. The lawsuit also challenges a rule holding that ballots cast outside of the voters’ assigned precinct cannot be counted. In many other states, such ballots are either accepted or counted provisionally.

To be clear, Arizona’s election administrators have already recognized that March’s primary election was an absolute disaster, and that changes (read: more polling locations) would be necessary in November. To be clearer, Arizona’s government has not given Democrats any reason to believe they will follow through on these promises.

Hence another set of battle lines have been drawn in the voting wars.


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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