Democrats, including both presidential campaigns, planned to sue state and other officials in Arizona on Friday over actions they assert “needlessly” disenfranchised voters, especially minorities during the March presidential primacy.
“Republicans are using every tool, every legal loophole and every fear tactic they can think of to take aim at voting rights wherever they can,” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. She added that the suit in response was “absolutely necessary.”
The suit in federal court will center around the state’s decision to reduce the number of polling places, resulting in long lines for the March 22 primary, and its decision to reject provisional ballots “at alarming rates.” The suit also will challenge a new law making it illegal for one voter to turn in sealed ballots on behalf of another.
The Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee joined in the suit, which will name Arizona's Secretary of State Michele Reagan, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, according to a DNC statement.
Maricopa County, for example, had only 60 polling locations on March 22, compared to 200 during the 2012 primary. In 2008, there were 400 sites there, according to a review by the Arizona Republic .
“We certainly made bad decisions, and having only 60 polling places, didn’t anticipate there would be that many people going to the polling places,” Purcell told the Arizona Republic at the end of March. “We were obviously wrong — that’s my fault.”
When asked about the pending suit, a spokesman for Reagan said she "welcomes any inquiry." Separately, Reagan's office this week held its second public hearing about the voting-related complications, and also posted a form on its website for voters to describe their voting experience.
Robby Mook, campaign manager for Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, said the campaign appreciated the opportunity to join the case.
Clinton, he said in a statement, "is committed to fighting for all voters to be able to exercise their fundamental right to have their voices heard in this election."Jeff Weaver, campaign manager for Bernie Sanders, said the shortcomings in Arizona were disgraceful. "People should not have to wait in line for five hours to vote. How many people were turned away? What happened in Arizona is part of a pattern of voter disenfranchisement by Republicans,” he said in a statement.
Plaintiffs include the chairman and first president of the Navajo Nation, Peterson Zah, and the campaign of Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, the Democrat challenging Republican Sen. John McCain.
The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division has already opened an investigation into the irregularities in Maricopa County after the Democratic mayor of Phoenix requested an investigation.