Election 2016

Bernie Sanders Inspires Big Protest Against Voter Suppression in Arizona

Sanders called the long wait times for voters in Arizona a "disgrace."

Photo Credit: Iowa99Media/YouTube

Fewer than a million Arizona residents turned out to vote in the primary, and just over 400,000 Democrats. However, there are over 3 million Arizonans registered. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders stressed that this is a much lower voter turnout than expected and that the issues behind it need to be fixed for upcoming primaries. 

Today, protesters at the House Election Committee demanded the reinstatement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a complete count of provisional ballots, and a public random recount of unsorted mail ballots (of five precincts in both Pima and Maricopa county).

“In Arizona, 50.5% of all voters under the age of 30 are registered independent. Thousands of independents turned out and waited in line for hours, only to be told they did not have the right to vote,” stated Amanda Melcher, outreach coordinator for Independent Voters for Arizona.

Watch: Amanda Melcher discusses millennial voting in Arizona:

For some Arizonans, however, memories of voter suppression stretched back decades.

“I stand outraged because what I witnessed on Tuesday took me back to the 1950s when voter suppression was at an all-time high," said Reverend Reginald Walton, a pastor at the Phillips Memorial CME Church in Phoenix. "It reminded me of the stories my grandmother would tell about living in Texas when her she wanted to exercise her rights as a young black woman in the United States of America and those rights were taken away from her.”

Watch live feed of additional statements:

Arizona was one of three states that voted on Western Tuesday last week and was particularly problematic for voters, some of whom didn't even get to cast a ballot before the race was called. Bernie Sanders called the reported wait times for voters in Arizona "a disgrace" and held a press conference to respond to voters' anger with the process.

"We got an email last night from a woman in Arizona who was waiting online for five hours to vote. Now, whatever the cause of that problem is, people in the United States of America should not have to wait five hours to vote," Sanders announced at a press conference in San Diego last week.

Sanders stressed that the deficit of resoures wasn't limited to his supporters, but to all Arizona voters.

“We do not know how many thousands of people who wanted to vote yesterday in Arizona did not vote. We don’t know if they wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or whoever; we don’t know that. But in the United States of America, democracy is our foundation for our way of life," Sanders said. “How many people simply walked away? Were they thousands, tens of thousands? I don’t know.”

"What happened in Arizona is a disgrace and I hope that every state in this country learns from that and learns how to put together a proper election where people can go in to vote in a timely manner and then go back to work," said Sanders.

The Arizona House protest broke out in violence during the court recess. The next state to vote in a Democratic primary is Wisconsin on April 5.

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

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