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Voters can blame long lines in Arizona primary on change to Voting Rights Act

People wait in line to vote in the Arizona Presidential Primary Election at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Phoenix, Ariz., Tuesday, March 22, 2016. (David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic via AP)

PHOENIX — Voters in Arizona could have a recent Supreme Court decision to blame for excessive lines during the state’s presidential preference election on Tuesday.

Arizona State University Professor Dr. Brooks Simpson said a 2013 ruling on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 allowed state officials, such as Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, to easily close a large number of polling places.

“Had the ruling in 2013 never taken place, the Maricopa County recorder could not have closed nearly so many polling places as she decided to close, or establish other regulations on her own,” he said.

Maricopa County — the state’s largest — had just 60 polling places open on Tuesday, down from 200 in the 2012 primary. Purcell said the move was done to save money.

The 2013 ruling struck down a section of the act, which required officials to propose the closures, disclose why they were being done and prove that it would not act disproportionately against certain segments of the population.

Voters were forced to wait up to four hours to cast a ballot, sparking anger and outrage at state officials. The last vote was cast well after midnight, even though polls closed at 7 p.m., declaring Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the winners.

Secretary of State Michele Reagan launched an investigation on Wednesday to look into the long wait times and prevent it from happening in the future.

“The issues that arose with the amount of time voters had to stand in line, confusion surrounding eligibility and other issues are completely unacceptable and my office will launch a full-scale statewide review of county election policies and procedures,” she said in a release.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton called upon the federal government to launch an investigation, alleging the long wait times discriminated against minorities in the area.

“Throughout the county, but especially in Phoenix, thousands of citizens waited in line for three, four, and even five hours to vote,” he wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Simpson said Tuesday’s impact showed the state favored certain populations over others.

“Certain populations that more easily could exercise their right to vote because of their work situation or transportation or things like that,” he said. “So, the consolidation of polling places costs certain voters more than it costs others.”

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