Arizona has become a bellwether in recent years. Before the Tea Party, well funded by Republican oligarchs, surprised Democrats in the 2010 elections, Arizona had led the way with the passage of SB 1070 and crazy, racist political movements. The result was a takeover of all statewide offices by right-wing extremists.
Now we have the disaster of the primary election, where voters were forced to wait for hours in lines. The number of polling places in Maricopa County was cut from 200 in 2012 to only 60. These closures fell heaviest in poor and minority areas. Details are contained in the Arizona's Continuing Crisis news vertical on this site.
Elvia Diaz of the Arizona Republic correctly writes that this was not a bureaucratic mistake by County Recorder Helen Purcell but "a well-orchestrated plan to keep ... Latinos from voting." Purcell had a green light when Arizona was among the states exempted from long-standing federal oversight after Republicans dismantled the Voting Rights Act:
Advocates and academics have documented concrete examples of discrimination against minority voters since statehood to the March 22 Republican and Democratic presidential preference elections. Those in power have adeptly used cultural and language barriers as a weapon. For instance, in the early 1900s, Arizona enacted its first English literacy test.
“The literacy test was enacted to limit ‘the ignorant Mexican vote’ … As recently as the 1960s, registrars applied the test to reduce the ability of Blacks, Indians and Hispanics to register to vote,” according to historian David R. Berman.
If you think about it, little has changed throughout Arizona’s history. Conservatives have incessantly targeted minorities and typically intensify their efforts during economic recessions or political turmoil.
Indeed, future Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist participated in Operation Eagle Eye, a voter suppression tactic aimed at minorities in south Phoenix in the 1960s. Remember, Arizona was long as much a Southern as a Western state. So its inclusion in Justice Department oversight of voting was well deserved.