Alejandra Ruiz went to vote on her lunch break in downtown Phoenix during Arizona’s March 22 primary. A registered Democrat of Mexican-American origin, Ruiz had recently moved to Maricopa County. Because downtown Phoenix had only one polling place for thousands of residents and the line was too long, she decided to vote at a different polling place after work. But things were even worse when she arrived at the West Thomas Baptist Church polling place at 6:30, located in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood on the city’s west side.
Ruiz waited nearly six hours to vote, finally casting her ballot at 12:07 am, more than five hours after the polls closed. When she left there were still at least 100 people still waiting in line to vote.
Leslie Feldman, a 34-year-old mother of two, waited nearly five hours in line with her 3-year-old daughter and 12-week-old baby. The toilets were clogged and there was sewage leaking on the grass where hundreds waited to vote. When she finally got to the front of the line, poll workers had run out of Democratic ballots. “For the very first time in my life, I was starting to feel disenfranchised,” Feldman wrote.
Tens of thousands of residents of Maricopa County waited hours to vote in the March 22 primary because election officials reduced the number of polling places by 70 percent, from 200 polling sites in 2012 to just 60 sites in 2016. The lines have become the clearest symbol of America’s electoral dysfunction in 2016.
[Image via DNC]
Others weren’t able to vote at all. Mercedez Hymes, an African-American registered Democrat, went to vote at the Bell Recreation Center at 6 pm. When she saw the line wrapped around the block, she drove to another polling place where she hoped the lines would be shorter. But the line at the Church of the Advent was even longer. So she drove back to the Bell Recreation Center, but was unable to find any parking because there were so many people waiting to vote. By the time she found a spot, it was after 7 pm and the polls were closed. Hymes was unable to cast a ballot.
The same thing happened to Cleo Ovalle, who made three trips to the polls but never got to vote. First she visited the Church of the Beatitudes at 4 pm, but had to leave without voting to pick her son up from school. She went back to her polling place, but the line had grown even longer. She visited a different polling place at 6 pm, but there was no parking, and after trying for 20 to 30 minutes to park, she realized it would take hours to vote and she would need to be back home to take care of her son. She, too, left without voting.