Election 2016

GOP in Arizona Attempts to Disenfranchise Latinos to Win Neck-and-Neck Race

The attempt is a last-gasp of racist, right-wing radicalism.

The GOP’s voter suppression tactics failed epically at the presidential level, but, in Arizona, one Republican candidate is still trying to use the tactics to eek out a win in a neck-and-neck state congressional race.

Democratic congressman Ron Barber is locked in a tight battle against Republican challenger Martha McSally for a congressional seat in a district of Southern Arizona that includes the city of Tucson. The seat was once held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the race is now gaining national attention as voter disenfranchisement threatens to tip the balance in favor of the Republican challenger.
As of Tuesday, Barber had a 829-vote lead, but McSally is using every dirty trick in the book to try to cut into Barber’s lead by attempting to disqualify votes cast in predominately Latino districts, where voters went heavily for Democrat Barber.
Tuesday, the Republican’s attorneys filed a court motion seeking a temporary restraining order to stop Cochise County from counting the ballots, alleging that 130 votes should be disqualified because they “have been spoiled because they were not sealed, as required, when they were transported from the Castro Park, Ramsey and Hopi Precinct polling locations to the Cochise County Elections Department and Recorder’s Office.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee supports the move, using the party’s line of being tough on ballot fraud to justify the obvious example of voter disenfranchisement.
“We believe that every voter has the right to an election that is free of fraud and ballot tampering. Southern Arizonans expect that their will is not diluted by fraudulent ballots. We want to make sure the law is followed and the rights of legal voters are preserved,” wrote spokesman Daniel Scarpinato in a statement.
The national-level support for the voter disenfranchisement is unsurprising, despite being a clear step backwards for the Grand Old Party. President Obama coasted to an easy victory last week in part because the Republican Party’s attempt to disenfranchise voters galvanized people of color, who braved long lines to exercise their franchise.
Following Mitt Romney’s loss, which many considered a defeat for the old boys’ club of America, a number of Republicans acknowledged that the party’s platform on issues like immigration would have to shift to match the changing demographics of the United States. Even Speaker of the House John Boehner came out saying that “a comprehensive approach [to immigration reform] is long overdue.”
Yet, a handful of staunch Republicans have dug in their heels on the issue of immigration, including Bryan Fischer of the extreme right-wing American Family Association. Fischer said that we have to “clamp down on immigration” because Latin American immigrants--unlike migrants from Europe--are “socialists by nature.”
Fischer’s is a declining voice--a last-gasp of racist, right-wing radicalism. Yet, as the state congressional race in Arizona shows, these politics are still being used to disenfranchise voters in Arizona and tip the balance of power towards the GOP.
As of Tuesday night, the county decided to count the disputed ballots, but hold them in reserve in anticipation of a future legal challenge by McSally. 


Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist and the author of "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home," forthcoming from Zuccotti Park Press.