Tucson resident John Read woke up on Tuesday ready to vote. When Read, 46, went to the Pima County Assessor’s office on March 22, he was told to go to his local polling place. Since Read had changed his address, officials directed him to his new site. When he checked in, the volunteer shuffled through the printed list and didn’t find his name so she placed a call to, Read believes, the Pima County Recorder’s Office. When she returned, the volunteer said something that left Read in shock: “You are registered as an Independent. You are not going to be able to vote today.” Only registered Democrats, Republicans, and Green Party voters were eligible to vote in the Presidential Preference Election. “I have been registered as a Democrat since I could vote in 1988,” Read said. Early on election day, Read’s Facebook stream had filled with friends reporting issues with voting. Because of this, he knew to ask for a provisional ballot if he wasn’t listed on the roster — so he could still vote, and election office staff could assess issues that would reconcile his district and his registered affiliation afterwards. But the volunteer told him he could not have a provisional ballot. No explanation was given. ”I left defeated,” he said. Read was not alone. On March 22, countless Arizonans visiting their polling sites to exercise their legal right to vote were met with roadblocks and red tape.
In Maricopa County, polling locations were reduced 70 percent — from 200 polling places to only 60 — since 2012. This left one polling place for every 21,000 voters. As a result, the Maricopa County voters who managed to stay waited for up to five hours to cast their ballots. Voters registered as Democrats showed up to the polls to find their status changed to Independent, and other voters who had changed their status by the official deadline from Independent to a listed party were told their status had not changed. Many voters received new voter ID cards in the mail on Election Day, with some of the cards containing information that established them in a new district and thus with a new polling place. Nearly 1 million voters cast their ballots in the Presidential Preference Election, but it is as yet unclear how many voters were turned away or left because of crowded polling places, poor communication, and administrative errors.
When writer and University of Arizona Lecturer Kindall Gray, 33, showed up with her toddler at her local polling station, a volunteer told the longtime Democrat that she was registered as an Independent. “I was sort of flustered,” she said. “She called someone, gave them my info, and then hung up and said I wouldn’t be able to vote today.” Gray did not request a provisional ballot and was not offered one.
According to the Arizona Secretary of State Office’s spokesman Matt Roberts, independent voters needed to change their affiliation to Republican, Democrat or Green Party by Feb. 22 to vote in the Presidential Preference Election. He said that if voters had missed this deadline, they wouldn’t be able to cast a ballot. When asked why voters who were registered Democrats who had not altered party affiliation would have been in the system as Independent, he said, “No clue.”