Today the U.S. House Administration Subcommittee on Elections held a hearing in Phoenix entitled “Voting Rights and Elections Administration in Arizona.” A recurring topic among the Members of Congress and committee witnesses was the closure of polling places in Arizona following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which invalidated the pre-clearance coverage formula in the federal Voting Rights Act. The hypothesis is that a reduction in polling places is per se harmful to voters and never would have been allowed had the pre-clearance requirement remained in place. Arizona election officials might have had something to say on that topic, but unfortunately none of them were invited.
A very similar hearing was held in March 2018 before the Arizona Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, with Arizona election officials in attendance. Polling place reductions figured prominently in that hearing. Here are some relevant excerpts of testimony.
Eric Spencer, then-State Election Director:
Patty Hansen, Coconino County Recorder:
Adrian Fontes, Maricopa County Recorder:
Lisa Marra, Cochise County Election Director:
These opinions came from election officials across the political spectrum. While some officials wish the preclearance requirement will be restored by Congress, there is no evidence these officials (or their immediate predecessors) acted with nefarious motives in reducing polling places.
Congress would be well-advised to listen to Arizona county election officials in formulating any new policies. That starts with inviting them to Congressional hearings.