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.
Remember what I've been telling you for years. SB 1070 had little to do with illegal immigration or WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?!?! Without cheap, fearful illegal workers, the Arizona economy would have collapsed, and indeed the anti-immigrant policies helped retard the state's recovery from the Great Recession.
Instead, the legislation and the Badged Ego's "sweeps" were all about pushing Hispanic citizens back into the shadows, especially politically. That 100,000-member march in 2006 scared the hell out of the right-wing establishment. These measures were also very useful for another political reason: animating the fears of Anglos who wanted Des Moines in the desert.
In addition, Arizona has a recent history of a highly politicized Secretary of State, the official who oversees elections. We came a long way from the apolitical stewardship of Wes Bolin to Jan Brewer, who was in charge of the 2004 election while also being the state Bush chairman.
Up to now, Hispanics have been their own worst enemies. They haven't voted in large numbers. I remember going to the gym the morning after the big march. Alfredo Gutierrez, former Democratic leader of the state Senate, was on the treadmill (metaphor noted). I asked him what he thought. "But will they vote?" he growled. Indeed.
But back to Arizona as bellwether: One of the biggest stealth issues of this election is voter suppression. Republicans control the governorships and both houses of the legislature in 23 states (it's only seven for Democrats). In addition to Arizona, they are in total charge in such pivotal presidential electoral states as Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin. The union also has 34 Republican governors.
They will do everything they can to ensure the election is within stealing distance. As of 2014, a total of 22 states had passed various forms of voter suppression laws. These are specifically aimed at Democratic areas or poor and minority areas, where Republicans fear people will vote Democratic. North Carolina, once a moderate and competitive state, has gone batshit extremist. People are aggrieved by passage of the anti-LGBT law. They'd better keep their eyes on the voter suppression laws.
So it doesn't matter whether you #FeelTheBern or #I'mWithHer. Both factions of the Democratic Party need to be focused on the deliberate effort to deny citizens the franchise and ensure a fascist future.