Long lines frustrate downtown voters at Salvation Army polling station

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Voters planning on participating in the Arizona presidential preference election were forced to wait in line anywhere from one to four hours to vote at the Salvation Army’s Phoenix Citadel in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday.

The line of voters wrapped around the building and stretched on for blocks down Fourth Avenue. The long lines continued well past 7 p.m. when the polls officially closed, but anyone in line before then was not turned away.

The last ballot was officially cast shortly after midnight Wednesday morning. The long wait time was likely the result of a 70 percent decrease in the number of polling places in Maricopa County from 200 locations in 2012 to 60 locations in 2016.

This is also the first year that voters can cast their vote at the polling place of their choosing within the county.

Despite the long wait times however, people seemed determined to exercise their voting rights. Ryan Sise waited in line for four hours at the Salvation Army to vote Tuesday afternoon and was surprised at the lack of polling locations.

“They should have known based on the record numbers of voters this year and made accommodations,” Sise said.

Still, Sise was excited to cast his vote for Donald Trump, which he did around 8:30 p.m.

John Kent, a volunteer with the Bernie Sanders campaign, traveled from Chicago two days earlier to help out in Arizona.

“Every place I’ve been to today had at least a two-hour line,” Kent said. “It’s an amazing display of democracy that people are willing to wait in line.”

Kent, along with other Sanders volunteers, patrolled the line of voters, offering water and snacks to try and keep voters motivated to stay in line.

The Salvation Army’s Phoenix Citadel was the only polling place located in downtown Phoenix this year compared to three during the last presidential election in 2012.

The two next closest polling stations were both nearly five miles away.

Over 112,000 people live in the five area codes closest to the Salvation Army’s Phoenix Citadel. Four of these area codes have a poverty rate of 15 percent or higher, according to the 2010 census.

Registered voters living in these districts, especially those without means of transportation, had no other convenient location to cast their vote.

Kayla Becton, a student at ASU downtown, did not have access to a car the last time she tried to vote in the city.

“I actually couldn’t vote because there wasn’t a polling place close enough to me that I could get to on my way to school so I didn’t end up voting,” Becton said.

She opted to fill out a mail-in ballot during this election.

The mail-in ballot allows voters to avoid the busy polls on voting day, but is not without some pitfalls for Becton whose candidate dropped out of the race after she sent her ballot in, but before voting day in Arizona.

Former secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the state’s Democratic race and businessman Donald Trump won the Republican race. Both were projected to win by most major news outlets while voters were still waiting in line.

Contact the reporter at craig.r.johnson@asu.edu.

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