KINGMAN – Six years ago, Mohave County had over 70 polling places. Now, it has less than 40. Does the change affect the voter turnout?
“No, it was a good move and the turnout is not lower,” said Mohave County Elections Director Allen Tempert. “Our voter lines are very little and we are saving money.”
But civil rights groups who prepared the report which shows the election officials have closed 1,688 polling places between 2012 and 2018 fear that closures and consolidation can be a tactic for disenfranchising voters, particularly voters of color, older voters, rural voters and voters with disabilities.
The closures are possible since the loss of a “preclearance,” part of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – jurisdictions with the most pervasive patterns of discrimination – to submit voting changes for a federal preclearance.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the above states do not longer need federal supervision, even though the investigative unit ProPublica later discovered Chief Justice John Roberts used erroneous data to make claims about comparable rates of voter registration among blacks and whites in six southern states.
Arizona saw the second-biggest reduction in polling places of the states surveyed, falling only behind Texas, where there were 750 fewer polling locations in 2018 than in 2012.
Since 2013, Arizona counties have embarked on an effort to close polling places statewide. The state now has 320 fewer polling places in Arizona than it did in 2012. Most of these closures (235) have taken place since 2014. Most of those were in Maricopa County, where there were 149 fewer polling locations in 2018 compared to 2012, Mohave County was the second on the list, with 34 polling places closed.
Tempert find those reductions logical and necessary.
“The technology is more efficient,” he explains. “We don’t need that many polling places. And I was finally able to buy new voting equipment.”
Accordingly, Tempert’s redistricting decisions are, he said, dictated by what makes sense. It makes sense to draw lines around communities who share the same board of directors, the same school and the same fire district.
“For example,” he explains. “I had ten polling stations in this area, now I have 4 with good parking.”