Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hey Maricopa, Let People Vote!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Maricopa County, Arizona - where I resided for the last several years of my working career - is home to some wonderful people - a couple of dozen, at least.  But it is also a haven for some of the most paranoid racists in America, legions of gin-soaked, redneck retirees, and countless people who conflate guns and religion with patriotism.

Maricopa County is a strange and severe place that regularly sends its citizens to the polls where they vote in the likes of Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, and Jan Brewer.

One of the few things that I liked about Maricopa County was the ease with which one could vote.  Registration was simple - easily accomplished at the Division of Motor Vehicles.  Somewhere, probably at the DMV, I checked a box on a form asking to have my ballots mailed to me, and the county clerk, a Republican by the name of Helen Purcell, sent ballots several weeks before any upcoming election.  There was no return stamp required, so all I had to do was mark the ballot and drop it back in the mail.  If I missed the mail deadline, I could take it to my polling place on election day and leave it there.

It was so, so easy.  Never any hassle or problem.  But, of course, I was an old white guy, not someone who should expect difficulty in casting a vote.

Now, according to the press, Republican officials in Maricopa County have taken advantage of the Supreme Court's essential gutting of the Voting Rights Act and eliminated 70 percent of the county's voting locations - a situation which caused waits in line of over five hours - with many people just giving up and leaving without voting.   Democracy advocates allege this was intentional voter suppression aimed at curtailing the voting of non-whites, but there were also reports of some white citizens of Maricopa County being trapped in the insufferable long lines and getting to experience first-hand what voter suppression really feels like.  (One report stated that there was only one voting location for every 108,000 people in the Phoenix area.)

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has written to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking for a federal investigation into the matter.

I hope that Maricopa County and Phoenix are still using the mail ballots, but for those unable or unwilling to trust the mail, there should still be a basic right to go to a local polling place and cast a ballot - without waiting hours to vote - regardless of who you are or how dignified your family tree happens to be.  America has voted that way for over two centuries, and it works - when there is an adequate number of polling stations and plenty of ballots.

Hey Maricopa County - this is America!  Let people vote!

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

Clearly Maricopa County engaged in the latest round of voter suppression. This was made possible by the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act. The reduction of polling sites from 200 to 60, and moving the remaining ones to inconvenient places are acts that would have had to been approved of by the Justice Department prior to Shelby County, Al. v. Holder. This past week's presidential primary was the first time Maricopa County could intentionally suppress voter turnout since that decision was rendered in 2013.

The language of Shelby seems prescient. "The Fifteenth Amendment is not designed to punish for the past; its purpose is to ensure a better future. To serve that purpose, Congress—if it is to divide the States—must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions."

Congress should now have no problem demonstrating that jurisdictions like Florida and Arizona, who have chosen to shrink polling site numbers, and make those sites inconvenient should be subject to a modernized, enhanced version of the Voting Rights Act. States like Kansas, and those states who sought and bought the counsel of Kris Kobach and have engaged in reducing early voting, Sunday voting, and established barricades to voter registration by requiring, often at the expense of the voter, proof of citizenship should enjoy the scrutiny of the Voting Rights Act.