Arizona Politician: 'Let's Be Clear -- Voter Suppression Happened'

Democrats in Arizona are still fuming over the four- to five-hour lines faced by primary voters and other signs of voter suppression. They've called for the Justice Department to conduct an investigation and correct any unfair regulations, and to do so before the November election. The White House will, at some point, have to respond thanks to a petition, but it's still not clear when or what actions they will take.

"Let's be clear - voter suppression happened."
That was the unambiguous statement from U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego at a press conference on Thursday, according to Fox News Latino. He later added that what was left to understand is if it was intentional or not, and how to fix the problem.

The frustration stems from the long lines faced by voters on March 24 in the state's Democratic Presidential Preference election. Particularly bad was Maricopa County, which had 200 polling stations in 2012, but only has 60 now. Republican officials, who reduced the number stations, say it was a measure to cut costs.

But according to voters, not only did they have to wait four- to five-hours in line, many of them could not even cast ballots afterwards. At least 20 Democratic voters contacted the Arizona Democratic Party to complain.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the frustration also led to a petition to the White House, calling on the authorities to conduct a "complete investigation to uncover the violations that occurred during the Arizona voting on 3/22/2016 and prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law."

That petition reached the 100,000 signatures required for a response in roughly 40 hours.

President Barack Obama is not responsible for voter suppression in Arizona, but he is now obliged to respond to requests for his administration to investigate it. [Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]
President Barack Obama is not responsible for voter suppression in Arizona, but he is now obliged to respond to requests for his administration to investigate it. [Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell has taken responsibility, claiming that she erroneously estimated the number of needed polling stations because of the large number of independents that changed their status to "Democrat" in order to vote, relatively poor voter turn-out in the past, and an overestimation of the number voters that mailed in their ballots. (They assumed 95 percent of voters would use the mail, only 86 percent did).

But in the end, she sees a silver-lining in the long lines.

"When you see people who are still willing to cast that vote and wait in line until well after the polls close, I don't think that's voter suppression."
Constitutional scholar Paul Bender says there's at least some blame to share with the Supreme Court. In 2013, the court pruned some of the Voter Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, specifically, the requirements for Arizona and other states with a history of voter suppression, to be pre-approved by federal authorities before elections.
"That's the first thing I thought when I saw these long lines. I said, 'Oh, Shelby County.' If they had not gotten rid of Section 5 — practically gotten rid of it, that is removed the pre-clearance requirements — that never would have been pre-cleared."
Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders also responded to the potential voter suppression in an interview with CNN.
"In the United States of America, democracy is the foundation of our way of life. And what happened in Arizona is a disgrace. I hope that every state in this country learns from that and learns how to put together a proper election where people can come in and vote in a timely manner and go back to work."
Bernie Sanders called the fiasco in Arizona a
Bernie Sanders called the fiasco in Arizona a "disgrace." [Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]Bernie Sanders lost the primary in Arizona. Although there's no indication that the potential voter suppression favored one candidate in the race, Sanders campaign manager reportedly said, "There's obviously something wrong with the numbers."

Arizona has faced accusations of voter suppression in the past. In 2004, it became the first state to require voters to show proof of citizenship at polling places, causing outcry. That requirement was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, according to ABC News, and now Arizona only requires a non-photographic identification.

[Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]