Arizona’s disastrous primary election of a week ago has again stirred up thoughts about America as a democracy. Voters waited in long lines for up to 5 1/2 hours to cast ballots. In addition there were ballot shortages and computer glitches. Even for Arizona, this was a horrible example of a practice that has swept the nation, particularly in areas controlled by Republican legislatures. It’s called voter suppression.
I was lucky. I stood in line for only two hours and 53 minutes at the Church of the Beatitudes voting place in Phoenix.
Two of the last-known people to vote in other voting venues: A state senator, Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix at 12: 20 a.m. on Wednesday and a native of Guatemala, Aracely Calderon at 12:12.
I had arrived at the back of a line at the corner of 7th Avenue and Glendale, the time was 2:08 p.m. By the time I had walked along the serpentine line (see my hand-drawn map) and voted for the Democrat, Bernie Sanders, it was 5:01.
As I walked back to the street where Nebra was to pick me up in her car, the line was another 200 yards longer than when I had started out. The polling places closed at 7, but under the law everyone standing in line at that time is allowed to vote.
Curious, I drove back to the polling place at 8:15 — and the line was now longer by maybe 50 yards. I calculated the people at the end of the long line would not reach the ballot box until after midnight!
Not only that, but under Arizona law, voting results are made public by 8 p.m. In no time, the media had projected the election winners. I read the Associated Press made its projection at 8: 15. So many of those people in line knew four hours prior to their vote that Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Donald Trump (Republican) had won Arizona by substantial margins.
That they stood in line knowing their votes would make little or no difference is testimony to their determination and perhaps errant thoughts of living in a democratic society.
This unacceptable situation occurred only in one Arizona county, the county for Phoenix. Maricopa County, for practical purposes, is Arizona when it comes to voting. Maricopa carries 56.7 percent of the state’s population. And it was there in Maricopa that the abuses mostly occurred.
The county Recorder’s Office and the elected County Recorder, Helen Purcell, a Republican, is in charge of County Elections which plans the Primary. This year, for a reason that is unclear, the number of polling places was cut from 200 to 60 — for the Primary only — not only leading to the gargantuan lines but jamming poll workers with an enormous amount of labor for a pittance of money.
The budget for the Primary was cut drastically by the Republican-controlled Legislature, and the Republic governor, Doug Ducey, signed off on it.
Karen Osborne, who heads up County Elections, was quoted as vowing to “. . . keep the presidential preference election as cheap as humans can do it.”
Besides the money issue, election officials said they planned on most of the voting to be done by mail. If true, a major miscalculation.
Poll workers receive $100 to $125 for the day, and in the case of the Primary, some were at their stations for 18 hours. That comes to $5.56 an hour for most poll workers and $6.94 an hour for premium workers with advanced training. That is far below minimum wage. And it is the poll worker there on the front-line that takes the abuse while the real culprits lay low in distant buildings doing the “brain” work that so fouled the process.
Of all Primaries over the years, how could you sensibly cut polling places this year? County Elections had plenty of fore-warning in a contentious presidential campaign. Voter turnouts were up in other states with similar primaries. Caucus states like Iowa are different.
Arizona’s Republic governor, Doug Ducey, has a typical right-wing Proposition, 123, scheduled for a special election on May 17. It is a controversial prop that Republicans claim is a boon to the education budget and also to reform pension programs in the public-safety sector. It is not a wild dream to believe Ducey and his staff are behind the Primary debacle if only to exasperate voters so they will not participate in May. It is a long-standing conclusion that Republicans and Propositions like 123 do best when there are low turnouts.
A hearing yesterday at the state House of Representative drew an impassioned and angry group. They complained to the Elections Committee, run of course by Republicans. The GOP has ruled the legislature for many years. Whether these complaints will be addressed is up in the air. My guess is that elections will continue as usual — unless the miracle of a Democratic wave takes over the Legislautre after the general election in November.
Anyway, I am glad I waited it out almost three hours and voted. If it means nothing in the world of politics at least it mean a lot to me personally. I say that even thinking that their is really no democracy in America, that in the case of the Primary, Party elites both Republican and Democrat have left us with much the same drab choices.
Change in Arizona is a long way off. I suspect it is a long way off for America too.