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Bill to Reduce Waiting Time At Polls Reintroduced

Long lings plagued Maricopa County during the 2016 primary election, spurring legislators to propose the Voting Access Act. (Roibu/iStockphoto)
Long lings plagued Maricopa County during the 2016 primary election, spurring legislators to propose the Voting Access Act. (Roibu/iStockphoto)
May 18, 2017

PHOENIX — Lawmakers in the U.S. House reintroduced a bill on Wednesday mandating that no voter should have to wait in line for more than an hour to cast a ballot.

The Voting Access Act would establish standards for staffing and placement of polling locations - to prevent nightmare scenarios such as the one that led to huge lines in Maricopa County during the 2016 presidential primary election. Aaron Scherb with Common Cause supports the bill.

"As some states restrict voting and make voters wait in longer lines, the Voting Access Act is really needed more than ever,” Scherb said. "And it would help ensure that disasters like what happened in Maricopa County last election would not happen again."

For the 2016 primary, Maricopa County had only 60 polling places, compared with 200 for the primary four years earlier. Some people reported waiting up to five hours to vote; others gave up and went home. Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Ruben Gallego, alongside 36 other members of Congress, are co-sponsoring the bill, which was introduced last session but never was scheduled for a vote.

Scherb said the bill would require that polling places be distributed according to past voting patterns and so long lines don't discourage participation in any particular community.

"We think having that non-biased standard is necessary to prevent any sort of politicization of voting-access rights,” Scherb said.

President Trump recently established a commission on voter fraud, and many jurisdictions have cited that concern in recent years when moving to reduce or eliminate early voting. However, Scherb said the issue is just an excuse to keep more people from the polls - because actual cases of voter fraud are exceedingly rare.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ