Last Tuesday was not so super. Presidential primaries took place in Idaho, Utah and Arizona, and there were some noticeable issues. Before polls closed, reports came in of five-hour-long lines at certain polling stations, a slew of clerical errors on voting registration forms and the closing of many key voting stations in underprivileged and overpopulated areas. The stories coming out of Arizona are undoubtedly shocking, but instead of banding together in the face of this obvious voter suppression, members of the Democratic party have been spewing vitriol at each other, with some placing blame on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee for these events. Rage against voter suppression should be directed towards national election reform, not used as political ammunition against fellow Democrats.
The accusations against the Clinton campaign are beyond ridiculous, with some implying that Clinton, as the establishment favorite, was unduly favored by voting procedures and disenfranchisement. This, they argue, somehow makes Clinton personally responsible for the lines, closed voting booths and registration issues. Voter suppression did happen, but blaming the winning candidate with little to no evidence of direct involvement is delusional and detrimental to the Democratic Party’s image. The fact that 70 percent of polling locations available in 2012 were closed in certain Arizona counties this primary season is not the result of a Clinton-led conspiracy, but because of restrictive state voter ID laws.
States like Arizona have been able to make changes to the electoral system without federal oversight due to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to gut the Voting Rights Act. This allowed a state already known for its discriminatory voter-restricting practices to further its reputation, free from federal scrutiny, as Arizona legislators have been able to close the majority of polling places in counties such as Maricopa. In addition, Arizona currently requires all voters to register for their respective party a month in advance, and has one of the highest percentage of ballot error and ballot rejection in the nation. This combination of factors is what resulted in the undemocratic voter suppression seen on Tuesday.
The worst part is this isn’t new. While the SCOTUS decision on the VRA has certainly intensified the issue, election fraud via voter suppression has always been a problem in this country. While it may have previously only affected minorities and the underprivileged, it is now receiving mass attention due to its widespread occurrence. It’s disturbing that it required this level of disenfranchisement to be brought to the public eye, and it should not be ignored.
This article initially appeared online and in the March 28th print edition of Washington Square News.