Today I have seen a lot of stories about voter suppression in my county, Maricopa County. I want to take a moment to clarify some points.
First off, voter suppression is “a strategy to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing people from exercising the right to vote”. In other words, it’s a willful act carried out by a group of people to meet an end, it’s by definition a conspiracy.
What occurred in Maricopa County Tuesday wasn’t a concerted effort to influence the outcome of an election. What occurred in Maricopa County was just good ol’ fashioned government incompetence. It was a mixture of local politics, poor data, and the sort of hodgepodge of priorities a predominantly blue district gets when it is in the middle of a red state. Calling out “fraud” and “conspiracy” is akin to crying wolf, and here’s why:
1. If there was a conspiracy who would stand to benefit?
My friends who are keen to #feelthebern point to Hillary’s involvement, but I don’t understand how limiting Republican votes, or confusing Republican voters as Democrats, could help her cause. Some of my pro-Sanders friends indicate that she was the defacto winner among early voters, citing indicators that an older more established Democrat base would clearly vote for Hillary. Fewer day-of votes would make mail-in supporters a higher proportion of the vote. That said the county recorder is a Republican, in fact so is most of the county and state which explains why last year…
2. There Is a Clear Line of Failure
…”over the objections of county elections officials, the Legislature cut the amount of money for the counties to run the presidential preference election.” In fact the County Recorder’s offices communicated through PR that the 60 polling places, of which you could vote at any, “saves a lot of money”, but doesn’t say how much. If there was voter suppression, again an actual thing that actually happens but is a strategy to influence the outcome of an election, who would be able to manipulate multiple branches of the government in advance to twist an election to their end? No one.
3. The Failure Affected Everyone Equally — Unless You’re Brown
I am registered Republican, and voted for John Kasich. I was also affected by the database issue. Luckily my wife, despite disagreeing with my political opinions, made sure I remembered to bring my voter ID which I was able to show election officials. The point of this anecdote is that Democrats weren’t the only ones affected. Furthermore, you could fill out a provisional ballot which would have been more or less hand counted in the following days. Critics of this have said that the election would already had been called, which is fair if the media runs the government. They don’t and this claim is akin to saying “one vote never made a difference.” Now that said, there were serious questions about polling locations in Latino neighborhoods. According to Elvia Diaz this had been a sticking point for Democrats, a fair one I might add. This is an actual example of potential voter suppression, but instead of focusing on that, people seem convinced that Hilary “stole the election”.
4. Closed Primaries Are Not Unconstitutional, Dumb, But Not Unconstitutional
I have a lot of Independent friends, in fact prior to registering as a Republican I was registered socialist (which in AZ means Independent). In California Democrats have a semi-open primary allowing Independent voters to vote in their election. This is a good strategy in my opinion, after all whoever a party nominates is going to have to win a general election. Perhaps if Republicans were more inclusive in their primaries we would get fewer Evangelicals and Trumps (read: Fascists) but I digress. The closed nature of Arizona primaries is not voter suppression, and not unconstitutional. It is up to the parties to conduct their primaries in a way that would most benefit their constituency.
5. But They Called the Election While People Were Still In Line
Yes, media outlets did. Good news is they don’t run the government. Also with so many people voting it was easy to establish a high degree of certainty regarding a binary winner. The titular “they”, the media in this case, loves binary winners. Democrat primaries don’t work that way though, a share of voters are granted to each candidate based on how they do in each congressional district, then PLEOs will add their votes based on majority choice — usually. So, sure the media outlets called an election early, at their peril, but they felt that peril was statistically insignificant given the number of precincts reporting.
6. Your Evidence is Anecdotal; Knock It Off
There is an inherent distrust in the media, which is healthy. Also Twitter makes sharing news incredibly quick and easy, especially about local events; best of all it’s not “the media”. That said Twitter posts are still anecdotal and very unreliable. While in mass they may paint a picture, sharing a few histrionic posts does not constitute a compelling argument. While I am glad to see folks encouraging the ACLU involvement, and Mr. Sanders using his time to speak with voters to encourage regulatory review of the elections, let’s be sober about how we look at what happened. There is a difference between a well-funded, and well established organization taking a look at things, and the guy who blogs about “dank nugz” and cat pictures taking a look. I mean, they are both analysts of a sort I guess.
All in all, it was a clusterfuck. Polling in Maricopa County indicates that we are still dealing with the lingering effects of a recession and a bipartisan system that refuses to get along. The events of Tuesday do not indicate that Hillary Clinton is some Machiavellian manipulator of elections.
It also indicates how strong our democracy is right now, with an estimated 60% voter-participation — in a primary! The primary process is one which, according to the internet, very few people understand the mechanics of probably due to lack of previous participation. This is good news, and hopefully our elected officials will learn from their mistakes and expand polling locations for the general election and the “actual” primaries in May. That’s right, another bit of silver lining is this primary only had one question for Arizona; it was a “Presidential Preference Election”, in May there will be another election with more questions in it relating to policy.