My Bill to Create Standards for Polling Locations

June 16, 2016

This past March, our state became a poster case for voter disenfranchisement in the 21st century. Lines lasting three, four and even five hours in the desert sun are utterly unacceptable in a nation that prides itself as the foremost democracy in the world. Equally alarming are widespread reports of errors involving voter identification, registration and party affiliation plagued polling locations that were difficult for residents to access and not adequately stocked with ballots.

This debacle resulted from Maricopa County’s unilateral decision to cut polling locations from 200 in previous elections to 60 this year, leaving just one polling location for every 21,000 voters(as opposed to one for every 2,500 in other parts of the state.) The mess that followed undermined the integrity of our election results and embarrassed our state while the nation’s eyes were upon us.

But it also emphasized why the Voting Rights Act was so vital to our democracy, and why the erosion of key protections within it by the 2013 Shelby County v. HolderSupreme Court decision is so dangerous. Prior to that case, all changes to election rules in Arizona were subject to federal oversight – a safeguard that would have prevented the challenges in Maricopa from ever occurring.

The problem, however, is much larger than the Supreme Court decision itself. The Republican Party has outright sought ways to exploit loosened regulations over the last three years, passing voter restrictions to advantage their candidates at the expense of our democracy. Voter ID requirements and rollbacks of early voting and same-day registration have become the modern equivalents to the poll taxes and literacy tests of the past. While the tactics in the 21st Century have changed, the injustice remains the same. 

Read Rep. Grijalva's full op-ed in the Arizona Republic here.