Voters across the Grand Canyon state are up in arms over the shamefully mismanaged Democratic primary, which saw widespread voter suppression orchestrated by the state’s Republican-led electoral commission. Budget cuts drastically reduced the number of polling places from 400 to 60 over the past eight years, forcing voters to stand in line for hours on end – and some didn’t even get to cast their votes at all. This email from Arizona resident Mary Ann Walsh describing the issues her parents faced when trying to exercise their constitutional rights is heartbreaking to read and is further evidence that something went terribly wrong in the Arizona primary – and a stark warning that our democratic system is being carefully unraveled by the machinations of party elites.
“On Tuesday I took my parents to the Church of the Beatitudes to cast their ballots. My parents are 83 and 87 years old both requiring walkers. When we arrived the line was all of the way around and down Glendale Ave.
“I tried to find a handicapped parking spot to no avail after looking for 20 minutes. I looked to see if there was an area (with seating and shade)where I could drop my parents so they could wait for me while I waited in line for them. Again, to no avail.
“After an hour of deciding what to do my parents were exhausted and we returned home without voting. It broke my heart that these two hard working, constitution respecting retires could not cast their vote in this election.
“My parents taught me the importance of my vote and that I should be proud that I live in the USA and have the right to vote. Unfortunately, my beloved parents were effectively turned away from being able to cast their vote and denied their constitutional right. I am still sad for them.”
I’m sad for them too.
I’m sad for us all.
Journalist EJ Montini of the Arizona Republic says this is typical of the deluge of angry letters, emails, and calls that his office has received in the wake of the primary. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) roundly denounced the efforts of Republican legislators to make the voting process more difficult, saying that “In the United States of America, democracy is the foundation of our way of life. And what happened in Arizona is a disgrace. 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 go back to work.”
Voting is the cornerstone of any democracy, and the GOP has been working tirelessly to undermine that right and entrench their majorities – whether through discriminatory voter ID laws, by gerrymandering voting districts, or other sly bureaucratic schemes like the “budget cuts” in Arizona. That might be why the Electoral Integrity Project just ranked U.S. elections as the worst in the Western world – 42 points out of 100. Our elections used to be the pride of the free world, a spectacle admired and emulated by nations everywhere. We must fight to restore our electoral integrity to its former glory, lest we see it wither away at the hands of oligarchs and religious extremists.
Colin Taylor is the managing editor of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.