Arizona Voters Head to the Polls for Tension-Filled Election Day

Arizonans and Americans across the nation are casting their votes today in one of the most highly anticipated elections ever.

Crowds began forming early, after polls opened at 6 a.m. in Arizona, but no problems have been reported (yet). Besides the voting and anxiety over the results, voters may also be on edge today thinking about the potential for chaos. Polls close at 7 p.m. Expect results to trickle in after 8 p.m.

Maricopa County Recorder and elections chief Helen Purcell faces the toughest challenge in decades to her seven-term reign today because of screwups this year attributed to her and Arizona Secretary of State Michelle Reagan. Bad planning for the presidential preference election caused some people to wait in line for up to five hours, leading to a hearing at the state legislature and a lawsuit against Arizona by the national Democratic Party.

Other snafus by Purcell's office this year included mailing tens of thousands of early ballots with incorrect information, telling Tempe voters to cast votes in the wrong polling place for a special election, and providing poor training for poll workers on how to deal with provisional ballots. That last problem, according to a county judge, resulted in more than 700 voters being "disenfranchised" and potentially altered the outcome of two close races in August's primary, including a congressional race and Purcell's own race against a Republican competitor.

Beyond fears of a system meltdown, supporters of Republican candidate Donald Trump could heed the advice of Trump and the state GOP to act as amateur poll watchers and citizen journalists, ostensibly to prevent election fraud. The reality, critics say, is that Trump supporters intend to intimidate and hassle Democratic voters. On Friday, Arizona U.S. District Judge John Tuchi declined a request for a restraining order on the state GOP, ruling that Democrats don't appear to have evidence that the other party has encouraged coercion or threats against voters (see below).

Two other recent court actions affected today's election in Arizona:

• The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a claim by Democrats that provisional votes should count if they're cast in the wrong polling place — the problem that led to the above-mentioned "disenfranchised" votes. Those ballots will be thrown out, but Maricopa County has re-trained poll workers, which could lead to less confusion on the issue.

• The U.S. Supreme Court last week upheld a state law that makes it a felony to collect ballots for drop-off at a polling place. Limited exceptions exist; for instance, you can still turn in the ballots of family members. Arizona GOP lawmakers created the law after seeing how effective "ballot harvesting" can be in the Democratic-leaning Hispanic community, where working-class people had been relying on community organizers to collect their ballots and deliver them to polling places. While the process could conceivably lead to voter fraud — critics of ballot harvesting imagined organizers steaming open envelopes and tossing ballots that favored Republicans — no evidence of such fraud existed before Governor Doug Ducey approved the law earlier this year.

Arizona Voters Head to the Polls for Tension-Filled Election DayEXPAND
Benjamin Leatherman

If you haven't voted yet, the first thing you need to know is where to cast that ballot. Don't mess this up, considering that ruling by the Ninth Circuit.

Voters across the state can get election information on Reagan's website.

Maricopa County voters can find which of 724 county polling places is theirs by visiting Purcell's website. Even if you think you know where to go, if you're short of time, you should check the site to see if your polling place has changed. County officials say that 84 of the 724 locations, or 12 percent, have changed since 2014.

Click here to access the Maricopa County polling-place locator.

Click here to access the Arizona Secretary of State's polling-place locator.

Maricopa County voters who filled out an early ballot but haven't turned it in yet must submit it before polls close today. Go to any of the 724 county polling places, or one of 13 special drop-off locations.

More than 1 million early ballots had been cast as of Friday, according to a tweet by Purcell.

Races to watch in Arizona include the presidential election, a ballot measure that would legalize marijuana, another measure that would raise the minimum wage in the state, Sheriff Joe Arpaio versus Paul Penzone, and whether Republicans can maintain their hold on the state senate.

As of 8:30 a.m., some voters have reported long lines, and some polling places experienced what a county elections official called "minor" computer issues that temporarily delayed voting. So far, no significant issues have been reported. New Times will check polling places today and cover election results as they come in.

Remember: If you don't vote, you can't complain about election results.

Read the November 4 federal court ruling on the alleged possibility of voter intimidation in Arizona:


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