Ever since the Supreme Court poked a hole in the Voting Rights Act, activists have been warning of devastating effects on average voters showing up at the polls. Last month they got their case in Arizona, where some voters said they waited in lines longer than five hours to vote in the primary elections after Maricopa County, one of the most sprawling in the country, cut its number of polling places from more than 400 in 2008 down to 60 this year. Other voters said they had their registration secretly changed without their knowledge, locking them out of the “closed” primary, in which voters had to have declared their affiliation in advance to be able to vote in either party’s contest. Supporters of Sen. Bernard Sanders alleged dirty tricks, saying the vast majority of secret switches were those who were changed from Democrat to independent. “We made some horrendous mistakes, and I apologize for that. I can’t go back and undo it. I wish that I could, but I cannot,” Helen Purcell, the Maricopa County recorder, told a state legislative investigation last week. “I can only say we felt we were using the best information that we had available to us.”
Lawmakers questioned her decision-making, while activists — particularly supporters of Mr. Sanders — saw more sinister motives, including suppression of minority voters’ rights and an attempt to keep a specific category of voter from casting ballots.
“There’s been 4,000 people that had their registration changed. Everybody I know who had their registration changed was a Bernie Sanders supporter,” said Jeff Woods, a man who said it took him more than six hours to vote. He demanded both a federal investigation and a do-over of the primary. The do-over may be a stretch, but the federal Justice Department is getting involved, sending a request for information last week about the irregularities.
Chris Herren, chief of DOJ’s voting section, demanded Ms. Purcell explain her decision-making, Election Day procedures, the information given to voters ahead of time and whether minorities were disproportionately affected by long wait times.