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Maricopa County Recorder Responds To DOJ Probe Of Presidential Preference Election

By Jude Joffe-Block, Lauren Gilger
Published: Friday, April 22, 2016 - 3:36pm
(Photo by Tracy Greer - KJZZ)
Voters line up to cast votes in the March 22, 2016, Presidential Prefence Election at the Salt River Pima Community Center polling place.

The Maricopa County Recorder's Office released a 12-page response to the U.S. Department of Justice's inquiry about voting problems in the March 22 Presidential Preference Election.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) began its inquiry into the Recorder’s Office after thousands of voters were forced to wait hours in line to cast their ballots in the election last month.

Maricopa County elections officials reduced the number of polling places from more than 200 in 2012 to just 60 in 2016. The DOJ’s letter asked about the locations of polling places, the number of registered voters, what led to the decision to reduce the number of polling places this election, and whether county election officials had considered the impact on minority voters.

In the response, the Recorder's Office said the long lines did not disproportionately burden minority voters, and said almost all polling places, except the rural ones, had equally long lines.

“Except for the voting centers located in the more rural parts of the county, almost every polling place throughout Maricopa County had equally long lines, no matter the location,” the response said. “Polling places in Gilbert and Paradise Valley had equally long lines as polling places in south Phoenix.”

The response said the Recorder's Office followed DOJ guidelines to protect voters and used census data to determine where to place bilingual poll workers.

The response also said that when it came to determining the location of the 60 voting centers, "the only consideration given to demographics (racial or language groups) was for the Native American Nation precincts." Each Native American community had a separate polling site at their tribal office, as had been done in past elections, according to the response.

After the election, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton called for a federal investigation. He wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Lorretta Lynch, saying he believed the reduction in polling locations had disproportionately impacted minority voters.

The state was required to have voting changes cleared by the Justice Department until 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act.