Volunteer Election Monitors Preparing For Contentious Elections In Maricopa County
The past four election years in Maricopa County have seen widespread problems at polling stations. In 2016, some voters had to wait upwards of five hours to mark their ballots — others faced intimidation from groups trying to suppress their votes.
A group of volunteer election monitors is trying to stop that.
Tim Hernandez is the Election Protection Program director with the Arizona Advocacy Network. He’s building a team of volunteer poll monitors to ensure Maricopa County’s elections are run fairly and cleanly.
"Those poll monitors will be kind of our eyes on the ground, so if something starts to happen, they’re able to give us a call and we’re able to relay that information to the county," Hernandez said. "It creates this chain of accountability, essentially saying people on the ground are watching the polls, we’re able to contact the county, and if that’s not resolved, we have our own team of lawyers who can step in, or anything along those lines to resolve the problem day of."
After the issues at polling places during the 2016 and 2018 elections, the Maricopa County Recorder's Office says it plans to open two-hundred-twenty-nine polling places for the March 17 Presidential Preference Election — up from only 60 during the 2016 primary.
As Arizona prepares to be a key battleground state in the upcoming national elections, Hernandez says voter intimidation may become an issue. His volunteer groups are working to protect voters from intimidation, which he says usually target members of the Latino community.
"We’ve had issues with people basically asking for identification, or saying you’re not supposed to vote here, or just general electioneering," he said. "That’s not allowed in Arizona. There’s other forms of voter intimidation that are a little more subtle. You could have a Border Patrol car posted outside of a polling precinct, and that’s typically viewed as some form of voter intimidation on some level there."
The Arizona Advocacy Network plans to have monitors at every polling place during the upcoming Presidential Preference Election in March, as well as the August state primary and November general elections.