I was reading the complaint in Feldman, et al v. Reagan, the case challenging HB2023, which criminalizes the collection of ballots from early voters, as well as some of the voting procedures established in Maricopa county regarding the number of polling places. I won’t write much about HB2023 (pdf link) — suffice it to say that the legislative history and bill itself evinces a clear intent by the state legislature to make it more burdensome for some minority groups to vote, and not any concern for the wing-nut fantasy of voter fraud, which even the lawyer for the State in this case admitted there was zero evidence of in his arguments before the court in this case.
This suit is important as it clearly demonstrates the kind of harm to the constitutional rights of citizens that pre-clearance under the VRA’s Section V was intended to avoid. The Supreme Court held in 2013 that the pre-clearance formula in the VRA’s Section V was outdated because it based inclusion of jurisdictions on the status of voting rights in 1975, despite Congress renewing the formula in 2006 for 25 more years, and despite 50 years of great results and institutional expertise in the Justice Department protecting American voters, and despite there being clear termination criteria to exit any and all pre-clearance requirements.
This lawsuit also exemplifies just how necessary it is to reinstate pre-clearance in states like Arizona (read as: states controlled by the GOP…) to protect the rights of voters. I certainly expect that future Congresses will consider the passage of legislation like HB2023, and lawsuits like this one across the country as criteria for inclusion in a new pre-clearance formula: Arizona’s government has certainly demonstrated that we deserve pre-clearance status.
Perhaps it would be best if, instead of creating a new formula, pre-clearance were imposed on every state and voting jurisdiction in the United States. That way there can be no issue of treating states differently, no formula that must be updated, and there will be strong and positive pressure to adopt standardized nation-wide voting laws and best-practices. Such universal pre-clearance could be the only positive result of the Supreme Court’s foolish, and demonstrably short-sighted decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Justice Ginsberg’s dissent in that case is a master course in the history, purpose, and on-going need of the federal government to oversee state and local election to protect the right to vote in our nation.
Back to the case at hand: I was moved and shocked by the stories of some of the plaintiffs in the case. I knew there were problems in Maricopa County with a lack of polling places and long waits during this year’s Presidential Preference Elections (PPE, or the primaries), but I have to admit, I was surprised by some of the granular impact of that seemingly intentional debacle. I wanted to share some of those personal stories with readers, as specific stories are always more powerful than arid and abstract policy. I doubt anyone, Democrat or Republican, can justify what happened to some of these citizens.
Just for context, according to the complaint, Maricopa County operated 403 polling locations in the 2008 PPE, 211 in the 2008 PPE (in which there was only one party with an actively contested primary), and only 60 in the 2016 PPE, which was hotly contested in both parties. That’s only 15% the number of polling places compared to 2008 for one of the most hotly contested PPEs in recent memory .
After the fold are some of the plaintiffs’ personal experiences that resulted from that disastrous decision.