“The right to vote is the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.” — President Lyndon B. Johnson, signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965
The right to vote is precious. Americans have died, at home and abroad, to protect it.
That’s why the Democratic National Committee is suing the state of Arizona.
Every voter deserves a voice. Every election matters. And when a state passes laws that make it unduly difficult to cast a ballot, that state is out of step with American values, the law, and the Constitution. As Democrats, we will not stand for it.
Arizona violates the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution
What Arizona voters experienced during the presidential primary goes beyond the bounds of what anyone would consider reasonable. My heart broke as I watched voters wait in lines up to five hours long, wanting to cast a ballot, frustrated by a state that disregarded their most basic rights as citizens because they wanted to cut costs.
The bulk of the issues were in Maricopa County, which is home to a disproportionate number of voters of color.
Republican election officials said when they reduced polling locations by 70%, they did not consider how that drastic action could harm African American, Hispanic, and Native American communities.
But this isn’t just about the March Primary: Polling locations weren’t just cut back — they were moved, causing unnecessary confusion to voters on election day. Almost half of all Maricopa County polling locations changed between 2006 and 2008, and by November 8, 2016 (that’s Election Day), election officials are planning alarmingly high numbers of changes. Imagine carving out time in your day to fulfill your civic duty and vote, only to be turned away because your polling place has been changed — again. Ballots cast at the wrong polling place are provisional, and (this will not surprise you), Arizona has extremely inconsistent policies for counting those votes.
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. We will hold Arizona’s Republican administration accountable for their actions.
Arizona has an ugly history of disenfranchising voters
Up until 2013, Arizona was a “covered jurisdiction” under the Voting Rights Act, which meant that due to their long history of explicit discrimination and disenfranchisement, the Department of Justice had to review any potentially discriminatory changes to the voting process.
However, after the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 in Shelby v. Holder, Arizona has been able to write new voting laws unchecked. The people who banned bilingual education in 2000 and who protected Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s illegal stops of Hispanics have been allowed to create an environment where Hispanic, African American, and Native American voters face enormous burdens in exercising their most basic rights as citizens.
We are taking a stand
The Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Kirkpatrick for Senate, and the Arizona Democratic Party are bringing these complaints to the courts. We are asking them to:
- Review and approve Maricopa County’s election plan to ensure it complies with the Voting Rights Act and Constitution of the United States.
- Require Arizona to count all provisional ballots cast out of precinct equally.
- Lift the ban on voters obtaining assistance when casting an early vote, which was a longstanding practice in Arizona for years and is a matter of course in other states.
Voting protects and preserves all of our other rights and freedoms. Republicans in Arizona may be determined to take the franchise away from voters, but Democrats are even more committed to securing voting rights for every eligible American.
Amy K. Dacey is the CEO of the Democratic National Committee.