Democratic Party officials on Thursday said they plan to sue the state of Arizona after some voters waited more than five hours at the polls during the primary election in March.
The lawsuit was expected to be filed Friday by the Arizona Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Senatorial Committee, and the Kirkpatrick for Arizona Senate. Democratic officials are seeking renewed federal oversight of the state's voting system, which they say fell short of equally protecting minority residents' right to vote.
"For years, Arizonans have demanded accountability and changes to the way our elections are run, yet our rights, privileges, and immunities guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution have been relentlessly chipped away," state Democratic Party Chairwoman Alexis Tameron said in a statement.
Until 2013, Arizona's elections had been overseen federally under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act due to historical issues with discrimination. That discrimination reared its head again in March's "fiasco" of a primary, Tameron said.
In Maricopa County, home to most of the state's residents, just 60 polling places served 1.25 million eligible registered voters in the March 22 primary. Elections officials said the reduction in polling places was a matter of saving money and later apologized.
In Phoenix, where most residents are Latino, black, or a member of another minority group, long lines dominated. Though polls closed at 7 p.m., some voters waited in line until midnight — long after a projected winner had been declared.
Cities with a majority white population had fewer issues with lines, prompting Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton to call for an investigation. The Department of Justice has also asked Maricopa County to provide data on the primary.
With the lawsuit, Democrats are hoping the courts review the matter to ensure that minority rights are protected, provisional ballots are counted fairly, and that early voters can get assistance in delivering their ballots — an issue of particular importance to people who are elderly or disabled.
"There is no place in our democracy for five-hour waits to vote, for policies that deliberately confuse voters, or for voting laws that discount the voices of communities of color," Amy Dacey, CEO of the Democratic National Committee, wrote in a blog post. "We will hold Arizona’s Republican administration accountable for their actions."
Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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