Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary in Arizona by a sizable margin tonight, bringing her that much closer to winning the party nomination.
She was declared the winner about 30 minutes after polls closed, and as of publication time, had about 60 percent of the vote.
Steve Timberman, a volunteer for the Clinton campaign, was watching election results with other Clinton supporters at a downtown Phoenix bar tonight when CNN first announced that Clinton was in the lead.
“People were cheering,” he says, but when the station called it for her, everyone started going nuts: “People were hugging and high-fiving. One guy got down on his knees and put his arms in the air like this,” Timberman says, pumping his fists above his head.
“I’m ecstatic,” he adds. “I’m feeling really good.”
But not everyone in Phoenix shared the sentiment. A few blocks away at a different restaurant, Sanders supporters gathered to watch the results come in.
They also had the TVs tuned in to CNN, and when Arizona was called for Clinton, the crowd let out a collective “boo.”
“I call bullshit,” Roberta Fox, a campaign volunteer, shouted. “There are still four-hour wait lines … It’s not over by a long shot.”
As New Times wrote earlier today, many voters across Maricopa County waited hours to cast ballots because there weren’t enough polling places – to put this in perspective, in 2012, the county had 200 polling sites, while this year there were only 60.
The Maricopa County Recorder's Office says it drastically cut the number of sites for two reasons: to save money and because it expected not to need many sites since requests for early voting ballots were up substantially from years past.
But what the office apparently didn’t account for was a huge surge in voter turnout – the county is estimating that 60 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.
Voters also reported substantial issues at the polls today. At least one polling site ran out of ballots this afternoon, and many Democrats reported waiting in line for hours only to be told that they were not registered as Democrats, meaning that if they wanted to vote they could only have a provisional ballot that may or may not be counted.
The day was so hectic, that as it became clear Clinton won, Sanders supporter Sheila Ryan said she just couldn’t believe it: “What about all the provisional ballots? What about all the ballots from [people still in line]? Are those getting counted?”
But back at the Clinton watch party, few were talking about the long lines; they were in the mood to celebrate a substantial victory – Arizona has 75 delegates up for grabs.
“Her message of breaking down barriers really resonated here," Tim Hogan, spokesman for the Clinton campaign says. “I saw that Sanders outspent us two to one [on TV ads], and he spent six out of the last seven days here, so we’re really happy with this win.”
Hogan says he was worried about the long lines, but added that the campaign sent volunteers to polling sites to encourage people to stay in line and vote.
It’s a national disgrace that people have to wait hours to cast a vote in any election.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 23, 2016
How can Arizona be called when there are STILL people in line??— Isaac (@IsaacR97) March 23, 2016
@CNN TRUMP/HILLARY DIDNT WIN THE ARIZONA PRIMARY. HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF VOTES GO UNCOUNTED AS FOR THOUSANDS MORE ARE STIL IN LINE TO VOTE— Famer Dave (@DavidBenites_) March 23, 2016
Meanwhile, even though the Arizona Democratic Party said it would look into the voting situation so that this doesn’t happen in the future, many Sanders fans were worried about how the polling disaster today would affect their candidate's chance of winning Arizona.
“Do the math,” says Eric Vinyl, a Sanders fan at the watch party. “Hundreds of thousands of registered voters and only 60 polling locations?”
Something shady happened today, he believes, and he said he’s not ruling out the possibility that there was “a concerted effort, or at least a calculated indifference on the party of the county” that caused such a disastrous election process.
Patti Serrano, another attendee of the Sanders watch party put it more bluntly: “I think there’s voter suppression going on, and it is obviously targeting particular Democrats. Many working-class people don’t have the privilege to be able to stand in line for three hours.”
As the results were coming in, she was worrying about those waiting in line: “My fear is that if people see preliminary results, they’ll get discouraged and leave the line.”
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Both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns made a strong effort today to encourage voters to stay in line, and while some voters just couldn’t wait hours and hours to cast a ballot, others said they refused to give up their right to vote.
When New Times stopped by a downtown Phoenix polling location at 9:20 p.m., the line to vote still was more than two blocks long. We witnessed a woman near the end of the line overhear the news that Clinton won Arizona:
“What?” she said. “Who declared that? We’re still waiting to vote.”