Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Yesterday’s voter disenfranchisement inexcusable, avoidable

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIXSenator Martin Quezada released the following statement on the handling of yesterday’s presidential preference election in Maricopa County:
Background:
Sen. Quezada
Senator Quezada introduced the four bills this session that would have alleviated the issues of multiple hour waits to vote and independent voter confusion. None were given a hearing by the majority party.
  • SB1027 (presidential preference election; independent voters) Would have opened up the presidential preference to Independent voters. Included an emergency clause so it would apply to yesterday’s vote.
  • SB1028 (early voting centers; extended hours) Would have extended early voting center hours and required them to be open the two weekends preceding Election Day and the Monday before Election Day.
  • SB1031 (voting centers; on-campus voting) Would have mandated on-campus polling locations for universities and community colleges and in-person absentee voting for out-of-state voters. The number of polling places would be one for every 10,000 students enrolled, up to six polling locations.
  • SB1032 (election procedures; workers; precincts; provisionals) Would have mandated a maximum allowable wait time for voting of 30 minutes and create mechanisms to ensure less wait time, such as a secondary line for those voting provisionally. Also provided that the officer in charge of the precinct must determine what measures need to be taken to ensure wait times do not exceed the 30 minutes, including but not limited to: bilingual poll workers, more polling places or creating secondary lines. Voters who initially went to the wrong polling place would be provided a type of ‘front of the line pass’ for their correct polling place.
“Traveling across the West Valley yesterday, I saw only one polling place for my entire legislative district and none in neighboring district 30, both of which are heavily minority and Democratic. This disgraceful situation was allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, with formal support from our previous Republican attorney general,” said Senator Quezada.

“No responsible calculation could assume 60 polling places to be adequate for Maricopa County. At a minimum, there should have been a contingency plan to handle higher turnout. Instead, Maricopa Recorder Helen Purcell told a Fox 10 reporter it was the fault of "the voters who got in line."

“Purcell also blamed Independent voters who are banned by state law from voting in presidential preference elections. This isn't the first time we've seen election officials complain that voter confusion causes delays at the polls, yet it is their job to properly educate voters.

“Governor Ducey properly stated this morning that waiting for hours to vote is unacceptable and Independents should be allowed to vote. That's easy to say in the face of voter outrage, but he and his fellow Republican legislators ignored the opportunity to prevent this from happening in the first place with my bill, SB1027, to allow Independent voters to participate in yesterday's election.

“I also had bills to make voting easier for Arizonans, not harder, but those, too, were ignored while Republicans advanced bills that strengthen dark money's influence in our elections and turn citizens into felons for helping others vote.

“We learned some valuable lessons yesterday at the expense of suppressing many votes. One lesson is we must ensure there are enough polling places so everyone who wants to vote can do so conveniently. The other lesson is this - the concerted Republican effort to suppress minority, Democratic and Independent must and will be fought both in the courts and on Election Day.”

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