Arizona Protesters Demand Change from Elections Official, Governor Ducey Calls Lines "Unacceptable"

UPDATE: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton asks U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate the "fiasco." (See below).

A group of about 40 people gathered outside of Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell's office today, angry at the seven-term Republican politician and demanding change. Some held signs like "Hey Hey Ho Ho Helen Purcell has to go!! Feel the Bern!" and "Stop Voter Suppression."

"It disenfranchised thousands of voters" — Reginald Walton about Tuesday's election problems

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Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, meanwhile, called the wait times for Tuesday's Presidential Preference Election of several hours "unacceptable."

The foul-ups are destined to go down as epic in county election history. Other counties around the state didn't have the same massive problems. Helen Purcell, who at the least approved the decision to reduce polling places for this election from about 200 to a mere 60, told the media she accepted blame for the problems but won't resign.

While some lines in the morning and afternoon weren't that bad, alleged complications with the county's election system caused some voters to wait for very long periods.

Hillary Clinton had been declared the clear winner on the Democratic side and Donald Trump the winner of the GOP vote, yet hundreds of voters still were in line.

Election officials allowed anyone who got in line before the official closing time of 7 p.m. to remain in line and vote. Some of the last votes were cast about midnight. Cries of "voter suppression," especially by Bernie Sanders supporters, began in earnest after the results were called.

It was more than enough to drive frustrated people to the steps of Purcell's downtown Phoenix office today to vent. Purcell is up for re-election this November.

Ed Higgins of Tempe told the crowd that he was registered as an Independent until February, then re-registered online as as a Democrat so he could vote in this week's election, which was closed to Independents. When he stepped up after waiting in line for more than an hour, he was told he was registered as a Republican, he said. He was given a provisional ballot and an official "blamed it on the MVD," he said. As he was walking out of the polling station, he saw the same thing happen to another man, he said.

Higgins, who works in the IT field, said he's never been an activist for anything before.

"I never thought I'd be out here talking about this," he said. "I'm tired of not having my voice heard."

"We demand fairness," said the Reverend Reginald Walton, pastor at the Phillips Memorial CME Church in Phoenix, who had introduced Higgins. "We want accountability for the provisional ballots. We were told that thousands were given provisional ballots because, as Mr. Higgins stated, their names did not appear on the voters rolls. This is not a partisan issue. It's a voting-rights issue."

He called on local authorities, including the county Board of Supervisors, to look into the situation.

Asked about his own voting experience, Walton said he was an early voter. Whether someone chooses to vote by mail or in person, "their votes should be counted," he said. "[This] disenfranchised thousands of voters."

Glendale resident Virginia Gallegos stepped up to answer New Times' question about whether the problems affected one party more than another.

"I think that it did affect the Democratic vote because a lot of the missing polls were from Latino parts of the city," she told the crowd, adding that Hispanics tend to vote Democratic.

Gallegos also was an early voter. But she said she waited with her son to vote until 11:30 p.m. at the Church of the Beatitudes at 555 West Glendale Avenue. The location ran out of both Democratic and Republican ballots for a short time on Tuesday.

Joanne Woods, a "dialogue activist" and representative of the family of Rumain Brisbon, a Phoenix man who was fatally shot by police in 2014, said the media was partially to blame for not reporting the potential for problems with too-few polling places.

A young woman told the crowd that she didn't think having too-few polling places was "a coincidence.

"This is nothing more than voter suppression," she said.

Ducey said in his statement today that "it's unacceptable that many [voters] had to battle incredibly long lines. Our election officials must evaluate what went wrong and how they make sure it doesn't happen again."

He said Independents should be allowed to vote in the preference elections just as they can in other elections in Arizona.

"A big part of yesterday's problem was registered voters showing up and being told they couldn't vote," Ducey said. "That's just wrong. If people want to take the time to vote they should be able to, and their votes should be counted."

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Puente Arizona held another protest at the State Capitol later in the morning...

...and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate the "fiasco," noting that the delays "disproportionately impacted minority communities in Phoenix."

"This is unacceptable anywhere in the United States, and I am angry that County elections officials allowed it to happen in my city," he wrote in a letter to Lynch (below).

And, we'd be remiss not to mention the embarrassing quote by Bernie Sanders on Wednesday on what happened here:

"People should not have to wait five hours to vote and what happened yesterday in Arizona is a disgrace."
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.