Bruce Weiss stewed after waiting 2½ hours in line outside a downtown Phoenix polling place, where juice drinks, snacks and circus animal cookies were handed out by citizens hoping to pacify thousands who turned out to cast ballots in Arizona’s presidential primary. The scene was repeated Tuesday as thousands stood in lines that wrapped around sidewalks at churches, community centers and government buildings after the number of places to vote were cut back as a cost-savings measure. Some voters took shelter from the sun under umbrellas. Others brought lawn chairs. Still others gave up and went home. The last voters entered polling spots after midnight. “It’s like a complete, total failure of government,” Weiss said. Waits dragged on as long as five hours in Maricopa County — home to metro Phoenix and 1.2 million voters eligible to cast ballots — but where only 60 polling places were open. By Wednesday, the mayor of Phoenix said the cutbacks were about more than saving money. Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, called for a federal investigation into whether election officials illegally put fewer polling locations in poor or minority-heavy areas.
Stanton says in a letter to the Justice Department also cited examples of other policies adopted by elections officials and the state Legislature that have created “a culture of voter disenfranchisement.”
Arizona’s Republican governor called the primary day foul-ups “unacceptable,” and others demanded the resignation of the county’s top elections official.
Maricopa County’s top elections official, Recorder Helen Purcell, initially put the blame on voters, stirring a clamor on the Internet. Her name was a trending topic on Twitter. But Wednesday she backtracked, saying she failed to anticipate the effect of intense voter interest on primary turnout. “I made bad decisions based on the information I had, obviously, or we wouldn’t have had long lines,” Purcell told The Associated Press.