False Cries of Voter Suppression in Arizona and Other GOP Primaries

False Cries of Voter Suppression in Arizona and Other GOP Primaries
Helen Purcell - Karen Osborne

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell and her elections director Karen Osborne

After a few state presidential primary elections took place this spring, there were cries of voter disenfranchisement due to the surprisingly long lines some voters encountered at the polls. Now there is an outcry that voters were deliberately disenfranchised, with calls for election officials to resign, including hearings taking place in the Arizona State Legislature.

But was there really voter suppression? And why would elected officials, under intense scrutiny with all the media today, risk something this illegal? Many of the accusations are from Donald Trump supporters, and since it is generally Democrats who are accused of voter fraud (hence their insistence on not requiring ID to vote), it makes no sense why Republican elected officials with long-standing reputations would risk their careers, reputations and prosecution in order to illegally interfere with an election — a felony that would likely result in prison time.

Some of the loudest protests are taking place where I live, in Maricopa County, Arizona. I was the elections attorney for Maricopa County a few years ago, so I have a thorough understanding of the dilemmas that department faces, which the general public does not know about. It frustrates me greatly how this fiasco is being portrayed by the mainstream media. Helen Purcell, the county recorder who oversees elections, is a moderate Republican with an impeccable reputation who has held that position since 1988. I disagree with her on issues like abortion, so believe me, she holds no favoritism toward Cruz — not that she would ever do anything unethical to affect an election anyway.

Purcell’s longtime director of county elections, Karen Osborne, is a moderate Democrat who I also worked with closely. She is considered by everyone who knows her to be the salt of the earth and would never manipulate an election, I have personally had many conversations with her where she discussed how important it is to be extremely careful and neutral.

Here is why there were long waiting lines at the polls on Arizona’s presidential primary election day: Unlike previous elections, where there were generally frontrunners at this point in the race, Arizona’s late primary in March remained very competitive on both sides of the aisle, so all four major remaining candidates showed up the weekend before the primary vote to campaign. This drove many more people out out to vote than in previous years. When the polling place locations were arranged earlier, no one, not even us politicos, could have predicted this rare scenario.

Due to this increase in interest, registered Independents showed up en masse — yet Arizona’s primary is a semi-closed primary, so registered Independents are prohibited from voting for Republicans or Democrats. They added to the lines and took up additional time at the polls trying to figure it out. Arizona has a high number of voters who vote automatically by mail, which should have been a tip-off to them when they did not get a ballot in the mail.

Making things worse, at least one elected official went on television and encouraged Independents to vote in Arizona’s presidential primary.

When Purcell tried to explain the Independent factor afterward, she got slammed for “blaming the voters.” But the reality is; at some point, if you are going to vote, you need to be aware of basic voting logistics, and if you aren’t, don’t scream voter suppression and fraud. Arizona has had a semi-closed primary for years.

Compounding the problem is what the federal government has done to hamstring several states. Several Southern states, where incidents of voter discrimination against blacks were reported years ago, are held to almost impossible standards by the innocuously named Voting Rights Act. The law was passed with good intentions in 1965, but it has now morphed into a monstrous, unnecessary federal mandate. States like Arizona, which never had reports of discrimination against blacks, were lumped in with those Southern states and forced to comply as well, simply because the state has a large Hispanic population. No one dares speak up and oppose it for fear of being labeled a racist.

As a result, Arizona has to spend exorbitant amounts of money on unnecessary tasks like printing all ballots in both Spanish and English, which is a nightmare when there are a lot of propositions on the ballot. The polling place requirements are frankly ridiculous; there must be large numbers of additional bilingual workers — which is not easy to find when it is temporary work and county elections is already burdened with other financial challenges from The Voting Rights Act. In reality, so many people vote absentee ballot that during most elections the polling places are generally empty. There is no valid reason why a Spanish-only speaking voter cannot call election headquarters and speak to a translator there. It is a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.

Hypocritically, there was no outcry from these same complainants in 2012 when several precincts in swing states reported 100 percent voting for Obama, with more registered voters than actual residents. The latter cannot be explained away as anything other than fraud.

In Wisconsin, in addition to complaints of voter suppression over long lines, there were also complaints that the new stricter voting laws, which include voter ID requirements, suppressed voters. This is ironic considering the laws were enacted in reaction to voter fraud — quite the opposite.

The far left group Democracy for America has started a petition demanding that Purcell resign. The petition claims to have over 47,000 signatures, close to its goal of 50,000. Suspiciously, the names are all hidden — a indication they may all be fake.

I haven’t spoken to Purcell in years, but think it’s a tragedy that progressives with an agenda would destroy her record of long years of service to Maricopa County. She is an innovator and one of first county recorders in the country to implement vote by mail. She was criticized at the time because Republicans thought it would turn out like motor voter and benefit Democrats. Instead it had the opposite result, increasing more registered Republicans than Democrats. She also recently implemented the ability to vote at any polling location countywide, so voters could have easily gone to a location in a less dense area and avoided the lines. By implementing vote by mail when it became clear most polling locations were usually deserted, Purcell wisely juggled the onerous, ridiculous requirements of The Voting Rights Act with making ends meet and not sticking it to the taxpayers.

Instead of making false complaints about voter suppression, voters should sign up for the permanent early ballot list, where ballots are automatically mailed to them. If they want the full experience of going to the polls on election day, they can still take their ballot in that day and drop it off — avoiding any line. And Independents have no one to blame but themselves for not understanding Arizona’s semi-closed primary system, which has been around for years.

As a result of the  whining, Maricopa County is going to unnecessarily increase the number of polling locations for the next election coming up for the May 17th Special Election, costing taxpayers extra money. Due to Purcell’s efficiency, the polling locations had decreased from 200 to 60 since 2012. Now, Purcell is being goaded into increasing them back up to 120 for a mere Special Election, which will have much less voter turnout than a presidential primary and will not exclude Independents.

Frankly, these whiners should be embarrassed of what they’ve caused. But they don’t care about the truth, because it’s all about their progressive agenda, which is to maximize Democrat votes and replace Republican election officials with Democrats.

Rachel Alexander

Rachel Alexander

Rachel Alexander is the editor of Intellectual Conservative. She is a senior editor at The Stream, and is a regular contributor to Townhall, the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research, and The Christian Post, and provides weekend news items for Right Wing News. She frequently appears on TV and news radio as a conservative commentator. She is a recovering attorney and former gun magazine editor. She previously served as a former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Arizona, corporate attorney for Go Daddy Software, and Special Assistant/Deputy County Attorney for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. As co-president of the UW Political Science Honor Society, she obtained degrees in Political Science and History from the University of Washington, followed by a law degree from Boston College and the University of Arizona. She was ranked by Right Wing News as one of the 50 Best Conservative Columnists from 2011-2016.

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