A CBS 5 News analysis of U.S. Census data shows that polling places for last week's Presidential Preference Election tended to be located in wealthier, whiter zip codes, when compared to Maricopa County as a whole.
This, according to one attorney versed in election law, would likely have caught the eye of Justice Department officials, if the county was still required to get pre-approval before reducing the number of polling places.
"You would have to show that the change in the plan had a non-discriminatory purpose and effect," said Tom Ryan, a Chandler attorney who has represented candidates, as well as voters in election disputes.
In prior election years, local and state officials were required to seek pre-approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before making adjustments to the number of polling places, as a result of the Voting Rights Act. But in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the provision requiring pre-approval. This was the first statewide Arizona election to take place without it.
During last week's Presidential Preference Election, many Maricopa County voters waited in lines for hours, because county officials had reduced the number of polling places to 60, from 400 in 2008, which were available the last time both major parties held primaries for the office of the President.
The CBS 5 News analysis of census data for the zip codes in which the 60 polling places were located shows they were in more affluent and Anglo neighborhoods than the average for Maricopa County.
For example, the median income for a family living in Maricopa County is $53,689. But the average family income of the zip codes where the polling places were located was $64,086. In addition, 55% of Maricopa County identify themselves as "white." But in 40 of the 60 zip codes where the polling places were located, the self-described "white" population exceeded 55%.
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