Capping off two weeks of fury over the March 22 messy presidential preference vote in Maricopa County, a group of frustrated citizens will make one last effort to get their voices heard and maybe stall the certification of the results.
Secretary of State Michelle Reagan is expected to sign off on the election results this afternoon, and dozens are planning to protest outside her office at 1 p.m.
Organizers of the demonstration call the March 22 vote a “rigged election” and say that a 70 percent reduction in the number of polling stations is an example of “voter suppression.”
Many of the same people planning to protest outside Reagan’s office today took part in a loud demonstration in downtown Phoenix during First Friday celebrations. Speakers wearing Guy Fawkes masks or Bernie Sanders shirts passed around a bullhorn and promised to continue the fight for all votes to count. (Also in attendance was Jonathan McRae, the now-famous citizen arrested and charged with a felony for having a safety pin on his body that allegedly pricked the officer who was searching him during a hearing at the Capitol about the election.)
And citing the success of Friday’s march, the organizers of today’s rally say their movement has “not lost momentum” and that they “are gaining more supporters in [the] quest for democracy and a re-vote in Arizona!”
The county drastically reduced the number of polling stations in an effort to cut costs and save money.
“We have [tried] to keep the [presidential] preference as cheap as humans can do it,” the County Recorders Office told the County Board of Supervisors last year.
Maricopa County had about 200 polling places during the last presidential primary but only 60 this time around. And it backfired.
Some polling locations, particularly those in heavily minority or working-class neighborhoods, had lines snaking around the block as voters waited – sometimes for two or more hours – to cast a ballot. There were also reports of many people who said they couldn’t afford to wait in line that long and gave up their chances to vote. Lines at the downtown Phoenix polling location were still more than four blocks long as preliminary election results came in and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were declared the winners, which had many Bernie Sanders supporters up in arms.
“What?” one woman still waiting in line to vote at 9:20 p.m. said when she heard Clinton had won. “Who declared that? We’re still waiting to vote.”
County Recorder Helen Purcell took responsibility for the mess – after backtracking from her initial comments that seemed to place the blame on voters for turning out in such high numbers – and Secretary Reagan called the situation “completely unacceptable.”
The outrage of the election continued at a hearing at the State Capitol last week when hundreds came to their tell their stories or demand that action be taken to remedy the voting disaster.
To be clear, while the distribution and polling locations certainly was problematic, there is no evidence of any sort of voter suppression, although Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has asked the U.S. Justice Department to look into the matter.
There is also no way for the county or state to hold a re-vote without litigation, and so far both the Bernie Sanders campaign and the ACLU have said they’re exploring this route as a possibility.
After a heated week of finger-pointing and allegations of “voter suppression,” the Board of Supervisors approved the election results last Wednesday in a 4-1 vote. (Supervisor Steve Gallardo, who was the only member to question the county’s decision to drastically cut the number of polling stations during a board meeting last year, had the one “no” vote.)
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
But as per election protocol, the secretary of state is required to “certify” the results before the process is officially over, and she’s expected to sign off the primary results today.
There is little to no chance Reagan won’t certify the election, but those protesting the results say they’re not dissuaded by this and have no plans to drop the issue.
"You silence one voice, you get 100 more,” they’ve taken to saying.