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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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DOJ Investigating Voting Delays in AZ Primaries

PHOENIX (CN) - The Justice Department has launched an investigation into long lines in Maricopa County during Arizona's presidential preference primary that forced some voters to wait up to five hours to vote.

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell decreased the number of polling sites from 200 in 2012 to 60 on March 22, causing three to five hour delays for voters.

Purcell, a Republican, has repeatedly taken responsibility for the delays, but has resisted calls for her to resign.

A special hearing of the Arizona House of Representatives Special Elections Committee on March 29 drew an angry crowd of voters who spoke of the plight of elderly voters forced to stand in long lines and of voters who thought they were registered Democrat or Republican only to learn they were registered Independent.

Independents, who make up the largest block of voters in Arizona, are not allowed to vote in the presidential preference election.

In a letter dated April 1, Voting Section Chief Chris Herren asked Purcell to provide the Justice Department's civil rights division with information on how her office determined the number of polls to use during the election and where to place them.

"We have received reports that a number of Maricopa County voters waited several hours to cast a ballot on election day," Herren wrote. "We also understand that there were allegations of disproportionate burden in waiting times to vote on election day in some areas with substantial racial or language minority populations."

The letter comes after Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, wrote to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking for an investigation into the delays.

"[I]n Phoenix, a majority-minority city, county officials allocated one polling location for every 108,000 residents," Stanton wrote. "The ratios were far more favorable in predominately Anglo communities: In Cave Creek/Carefree, there was one polling location for 8,500 residents; in Paradise Valley, one for 13,000 residents; in Fountain Hills, one for 22,500 residents; and in Peoria, one for every 54,000 residents."

Herren also wants Purcell to provide the civil rights division with a breakdown of just how many voters cast ballots on primary day, how many voted early, and what Maricopa County's procedures are for "recording political party registration in the voter database."

The letter calls for a response from the recorder's office by April 22. A representative of the office said it will comply with the request.

Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan certified March 22's election results on Monday. Hillary Clinton won the Democratic contest in Arizona with 262,459 votes compared to Sen. Bernie Sanders' 192,962 votes. Donald Trump won the Republican primary 286,743 votes, while Sen. Ted Cruz received 172,294 votes in coming in second place.

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