Voters accuse Arizona of election fraud as Phoenix mayor requests federal investigation

Polling places were cut by 70%, leading #AZElectionFraud to trend on Twitter & a petition to get 100,000 signatures

Published March 24, 2016 7:00PM (EDT)

People wait to vote in the presidential primary election outside a polling site in Glendale, Arizona on March 22, 2016, after 70 percent of polling locations were cut  (Reuters/Nancy Wiechec)
People wait to vote in the presidential primary election outside a polling site in Glendale, Arizona on March 22, 2016, after 70 percent of polling locations were cut (Reuters/Nancy Wiechec)

The phrase #AZElectionFraud trended on Twitter on Thursday as thousands of users across social media accused Arizona of sabotaging the March 22 primary election.

Thousands of Arizonan voters were stuck in long lines for hours on Tuesday night after county officials decreased the number of polling locations in Maricopa County — the most populous area in the state, with more than half of the population — by more than two-thirds, from 200 four years ago to just 60.

Hillary Clinton won the contested Democratic primary in Arizona with roughly 58 percent of votes to Bernie Sanders' 40 percent. Sen. Sanders won the other two primaries in Idaho and Utah the same night in enormous landslides, with approximately 80 percent of votes.

Donald Trump won the contested Republican primary in Arizona with 47 percent of votes.

A petition calling on the Obama administration to "investigate the voter fraud and voter suppression" received more than 100,000 signatures by Thursday afternoon.

In response to the widespread outrage, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called the conditions "unacceptable."

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton took a step further, writing a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting a federal investigation into the allegations of misconduct, local media outlets reported.

Maricopa County officials cut the number of polling locations in this primary by 70 and 85 percent, compared to the elections in 2012 and 2008, respectively, according to Stanton.

He pointed out in his letter that, in Phoenix, there was just one polling location for every 108,000 residents.

"Thousands of citizens waited in line for three, four, and even five hours to vote," Stanton wrote. "Many more simply could not afford to wait that long, and went home."

"This is unacceptable anywhere in the United States, and I am angry that County elections officials allowed it to happen in my city," the Phoenix mayor added.

He also wrote in his letter that Maricopa County "distributed fewer polling locations to parts of the county with higher minority populations."

"My request comes on the heels of consistent activity that has created a culture of voter disenfranchisement in this state," Stanton continued, noting that Arizona has a history of rejecting large amounts of provisional ballots and mail-in ballots.

Mayor Stanton furthermore criticized state officials for, in early March, approving "a law that aims to suppress voter turnout by making it a felony (with a presumptive one-year prison term and $150,000 fine) for volunteers, or even a friend or a neighbor to turn in a person's valid, sealed and signed early ballot."

Many activists have blamed Helen Purcell, the Republican recorder for Maricopa County. Purcell admitted responsibility for drastically reducing the number of polling locations, but refuses to step down.

Arizona lawmakers will be holding a special hearing to look into the primary on March 28.

Bernie Sanders held a news conference on Wednesday and called the Arizona primary a "disgrace."

"People should not have to wait five hours to vote. And what happened yesterday in Arizona is a disgrace," the Vermont senator said. "I hope that every state in this country learns from that and learns how to put together a proper election, where people can come in and vote in a timely manner and then go back to work."

By Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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Arizona Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Election Fraud Hillary Clinton