Clinton, Sanders Will Sue Arizona Over Botched Election

The suit comes after voters waited for hours in line.

Voters wait in line to cast their ballots in Arizona's presidential preference election on March 22 in Gilbert, Arizona.Matt York/AP

The Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign will file a lawsuit against the state of Arizona on Friday, according to the Washington Post, the latest fallout from the botched March 22 election in which thousands of voters in the state’s biggest county were forced to wait hours to cast their ballots.

According to the Post, the suit will focus on Maricopa County, home to roughly 2 million registered voters. Many voters experienced hourslong wait times after county elections officials cut the number of polling places from 200 in 2012 to 60 in 2016.

The county’s “alarmingly inadequate number of voting centers resulted in severe, inexcusable burdens on voters countywide, as well as the ultimate disenfranchisement of untold numbers of voters who were unable or unwilling to wait in intolerably long lines,” the suit alleges, according to the Post. The suit states that these problems were more severe for the county’s black, Hispanic, and Native American communities, which had either fewer voting locations or none at all.

The lawsuit comes after Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell took responsibility for the long lines and decreased number of polling locations, a decision she says was made in an effort to save money. County officials also justified the move by pointing out that voters could now cast ballots at any of the 60 voting locations, not just at locations specific to their neighborhood.

The suit asks the US District Court in Phoenix “to review the polling location plan for the November election” and stop statewide policies that “have a “dramatic and disparate impact” on minority communities, according to the Post. Among those policies are rules against turning in other people’s sealed absentee ballots, which Democrats and the county’s Hispanic activists say disproportionately hurt their get-out-the-vote efforts.

County voting officials have already said there will be more than 720 voting locations in the November election, one for each county precinct.

The lawsuit places the March 22 events into the broader context of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which used to require Arizona and a number of other states to clear any changes to election law or procedure with federal officials. That law was gutted by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that found unconstitutional the formula used to determine which jurisdictions were subject to pre-clearance.

The Post reports that the suit is being brought by Marc Elias, a longtime DC elections lawyer, on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Arizona Democratic Party, and several individuals in Arizona. The Clinton campaign will join the lawsuit after it’s filed, the Post reports. Elias is also the Clinton campaign’s general counsel. He has voting rights lawsuits pending in North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ohio, he told Mother Jones in an email.

Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager for Sen. Bernie Sanders, said in a statement provided to Mother Jones Thursday afternoon that the Sanders campaign supports and will join the suit.

“The handling of the primary election in Arizona was a disgrace,” Weaver said. “People should not have to wait in line for five hours to vote. How many people were turned away? What happened in Arizona is part of a pattern of disenfranchisement by Republicans.”

The state’s Republican governor called the voting chaos “unacceptable,” and the Democratic mayor of Phoenix asked the US Department of Justice to open an investigation, which it did on April 1. The state’s legislature held a raucous three-and-a-half-hour hearing about the election troubles a week after the election. Following that hearing, several angry voters went to the gallery of the state’s House of Representatives, and Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers forcibly removed a man who bystanders said had done nothing wrong.

Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Arizona Secretary of State Michelle Reagan, told Mother Jones that the secretary hasn’t seen the suit, but “similar to the DOJ investigation we welcome any inquiry into the problems in Maricopa County.”

This post has been updated to include a statement from Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver.


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