Western Tuesday Reality Check

Even the most fubar primary is more democratic than a caucus. (Click here to see all of TLP’s #Election2016 posts.)

Well, that was fucked up.
Well, that was fucked up.
Okay seriously: no denying that the primary in Arizona was really messed up, but however tempting it might to buy into conspiracy theories about why, that is not a helpful (much less progressive) response. It is important to remember that as with most fiascos, the problems in Arizona are a combination of unfortunate, discrete, understandable circumstances that can best be understood by separating facts from opinions. For example:
  1. Long lines, part 1
    Fact: Maricopa County reduced the number of polling stations from 200 in 2012 to 60 in 2016 and sent out hundreds of thousands of early ballots, expecting most voters to use those instead of showing up to vote in person on the 22nd. Contrary to that plan, turnout this year is approximately four times higher than it was in 2012 and so more people trying to vote at fewer locations has caused long lines. (There are other issues (see part 2) that exacerbated this problem.)
    Opinion: This is why the political parties, not the taxpayers, should be required to fund the primaries in every state. Obviously we can’t trust the party organizations to actually administer the vote, but they should foot the bill so that there is no reason why a state and/or county would try to drastically reduce polling stations.
  2. Long lines, part 2
    Fact: Arizona has a semi-closed primary, which means that primary officials and first time/irregular voters were dealing with the issues (e.g. incorrect or missing party registrations) that go along with closed primaries. In the long run this won’t impact the results (folks are able to fill out a provisional ballot, their vote will be counted), but in the short run it exacerbated the problems of #1 by making it take so much longer for people to vote (more people taking more time to vote at fewer locations). Of course some people will be turned away or simply not have the time to wait in line then spend time waiting to do a provisional ballot, so this does prevent some voters from participating.
    Opinion: Closed primaries are stupid and inherently anti-democratic.
  3. Media orgs announced the Dem and GOP winners while many voters were still in line
    Fact: News outlets waited to call the state until after the official poll closing time and when the early votes (already tabulated), exit polls, and available precinct results lead to an inescapable conclusion, which is what they normally do.
    Opinion: People are not normally still waiting in line to vote (because of #1 and #2) when news outlets make these kinds of calls. Even if the predictions were accurate, it was in poor taste to broadcast them with so many voters still in line.
  4. “Only 1% of the votes had been counted when the race was called.”
    Fact: 1% of precincts reporting does not mean only 1% of votes have been counted. A majority of votes in both party’s Arizona primary were early ballots that had already been counted when the news outlets announced the winners.
    Opinion: “The whole thing is rigged! Tag all your comment with #AZRigged get it trending!”

(I put the last issue and accompanying opinion in quotes because they’re something I have seen a lot this morning, but not something that at any point I would be caught thinking or saying.)

Of course a sober analysis of the cascading failures of the Maricopa County Recorders Office is certainly in order, but overnight and this morning on social media the Unksewed Berners have responded to the situation as if it were some kind of Hillary Clinton arranged, DNC administered conspiracy to suppress the Berner vote. As of now (10am Eastern), it seems like the accusations on social media are beginning to focus on the GOP officials in Maricopa County who actually made the decisions that lead to the problems, so that is some progress. Still, all these things happened first:

Rabid Nerd justified (half) their pen name at Daily Kos:

Volunteers were handing out snacks, providing refreshments and playing music according to Bernie Sanders supporter Maria Castro of Phoenix. Some members of her own family had been forced to vote by provisional ballot, and she expressed frustration over Secretary Clinton declaring victory long before many people had the ability to cast their ballot.

Zach Cartwright has some good info on the issues in Arizona, but unfortunately he mars his piece with a bias-laden lede:

During last night’s primary, Arizona election officials showed America what textbook voter suppression looks like. While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both won their respective primaries, the lingering questions of voter disenfranchisement will mar those victories.

No they won’t! Clinton and Trump both won by huge margins. The problems will mar the reputation of local officials, as they should, but they will not impact perceptions of the victories of anyone not already in Cartwright’s confirmation bias bubble. Later he goes full on Fox News, reporting the opinions of people who agree with him as news:

Many on social media are crying foul over the incompetent primary process. A Whitehouse.gov petition has been launched calling on the Obama administration to investigate the claims of voter suppression during the Arizona primary. The White House is obligated to all petitions that garner over 100,000 signatures. Add your name below to demand an independent investigation

“Many on social media” is actually “many Bernie Sanders supporters on social media.” Plenty of people (myself included) think the primary was full of problems, particularly the Latino voter suppression, but there is at this point no reason to believe it impacted the winners or even significantly changes the numbers of delegates awarded. Also, the wording here is kind of funny “the White House is obligated to all petitions that garner over 100,000 signatures.” What they left out is that the White House is obligated to respond to any petition that gets 100,000 or more signatures – they don’t have to do anything, they just have to respond somehow. It can be very disappointing.

(And just in case you think I always pick the worst Unskewed Berners as examples to pick on, click here to see the kind of stuff I don’t even mention.)

This brings us to the reality check: As fucked up as the Arizona primary was last night, it was still more democratic than any caucus – including those in Idaho and Utah that Sanders and Cruz both won in blowouts (although for Cruz only Utah). Caucuses occur in a few hours of a weekday evening or weekend afternoon, when many people are working, going to school, or taking care of their family. Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory over Sanders in Arizona is greater than the number of votes Sanders won in the Idaho and Utah Democratic caucuses combined. Every time I see an article where someone says caucuses “favor more energized and motivated voters” I always wish I could change it to tell the truth: caucuses favor the most privileged and leisure-having voters.

It is ironic that so many of the Unskewed Berners, who love to boast that their candidate consistently wins contests that are prefaced on a several hour wait, are now complaining about a primary that was so poorly administered that many voters experienced a several hour wait.


Check back in with TLP later today for the usual hot take & reax about Western Tuesday.

Update: There really just aren’t enough commentary pieces to do a whole reax post, and my only take on the evening is that nothing really changed in either race. Hillary still has a commanding pledged delegate lead (Bernie only made up about 2% of the gap on Tuesday) and Donald Trump is still the GOP frontrunner, even if he is not entirely on track to win the nomination before the convention. Here are some links and excerpts, think of it as a micro-reax:

Josh Voorhees explains how Bernie Sanders either didn’t net any delegates over Clinton, or didn’t net very many (we now know it is the latter)

Bernie’s problem? His small-state victories will be largely offset—and perhaps even overshadowed completely—by Clinton’s win in Arizona, where there were 75 bound delegates at stake. With more than 95 percent reporting, Clinton led Sanders by about 18 points in the state and had won roughly twice the number of delegates. While those delegate estimates are just provisional numbers, they suggest that the three contests will combine to be more or less a wash

Joan Walsh checks in on both parties’ Arizona contests while focusing on the non-protest side of the Trump rally story:

I saw both cruelty and quailing at Trump’s Saturday rally in surreal Fountain Hills, where national media coverage mostly focused on the protesters who managed to stop traffic and block access on the main route in. There were other ways to get to Trumpapalooza, though, and at least 10,000 people did. Fountain Hills, whose residents are 94 percent white with a median age of 54, was the perfect setting. Designed by Disneyland’s architect (really), its eponymous water fountain, once the tallest in the world, can be seen for miles away. In this parched desert landscape it’s a phallic, Trumpian F-you to the notion of limits and scarcity. But a culture that builds water-needy golf courses and erects huge fountains in the desert is by definition an insecure, paranoid culture, protective of all it has taken, anxious somebody’s going to come take it back. It makes sense that Fountain Hills is the home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a major Trump supporter, who boasted that he would provide security at the rally and speak at it, too.

Meanwhile, the most important story from the Arizona primary remains the de facto voter suppression (which impacted both parties’ voters) in Maricopa County. Ari Berman makes the case that this is directly related to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision against the Voting Rights Act:

Election officials said they reduced the number of polling sites to save money—an ill-conceived decision that severely inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of voters. Previously, Maricopa County would have needed to receive federal approval for reducing the number of polling sites, because Arizona was one of 16 states where jurisdictions with a long history of discrimination had to submit their voting changes under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This type of change would very likely have been blocked since minorities make up 40 percent of Maricopa County’s population and reducing the number of polling places would have left minority voters worse off. Section 5 blocked 22 voting changes from taking effect in Arizona since the state was covered under the VRA in 1975 for discriminating against Hispanic and Native American voters.

That Ari Berman article at The Nation is the best I have read on the topic of Arizona’s fubar primary. Check it out.


Sound off! Do you agree? Do you disagree? Tell us! TLP wants to hear from you. Send an email, comment on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter. There is also Tumblr and the comment field below, if you’re into that kind of thing. The best responses will be added to this post or included in a follow up post.

Click here to see all of TLP’s #Election2016 posts.


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