Two petitions calling for a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation of the March 22 Arizona presidential primary election have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures in the past few days. Though overshadowed by other stories in the mass media like ISIS, the Brussels bombings and the Trump-Cruz spectacle over wives and alleged affairs, the demand for a DOJ investigation is picking up steam following last Tuesday’s debacle of ballot shortages and hours-long poll lines. Many people reportedly left the polls after long waits without voting. During a primary that was closed to independents, reports also surfaced of voters claiming long-time Democratic Party registrations being told by election officials that they could not vote because their names were showing up in the voter rolls as registered Republicans or independents.
Many political leaders, activists and ordinary citizens in Arizona and nationwide are deeply concerned over the election’s disenfranchisement of Latino and other voters of color. The problems reported on March 22 were concentrated in the urban Phoenix area of Maricopa County, which is 40 percent Latino in population.
Whether intentional or not, “voter suppression happened,” charged Arizona Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego.
The primary day meltdown occurred after election officials in Maricopa County cut the number of polling stations from the 200 local sites that were set up in 2012 to 60 consolidated “voting centers” where any registered voter could cast a ballot this year. According to the Associated Press, 400 polling stations existed in the county in 2008. Money appears to be an important factor in the precinct consolidation. In 2015 the GOP-dominated Arizona state legislature cut $4.5 million in funding for the primary election, leading Maricopa County elections officials to implement a cost-saving consolidation strategy.