As the country marches forward to a new, more diverse electorate, Arizona sputters and spirals toward political backwardness and crisis. In view of the possibility that hundreds of thousands of votes may not be counted by local and state authorities, I joined groups in Arizona and across the country that are mobilizing in the streets and online against forces that appear ready and willing to hold on to power, and to do so at the expense of Latino and other disenfranchised voters. As an Arizona voter it’s my responsibility to guarantee that all of our votes are counted.
As of Thursday, according to the Arizona Secretary of State, there were 631,274 ballots yet to be counted. This is shameful. Arizona authorities must immediately resolve this crisis by first counting every vote, and then reforming Arizona's broken electoral system so that the rights of Arizona citizens can be restored.
In order to appreciate the magnitude of the crisis in Arizona, we must remember that overall voter turnout in Arizona in 2008 was 2 million, with 1.5 million votes in Maricopa County alone. Yet, as of their most recent statements, state officials are reporting that only 1.5 million votes were cast in the entire state. This low vote count likely means that thousands of Arizona votes are unaccounted for, especially when we consider that record-breaking numbers of Latinos voted in this election.
With at least 3 key races still undecided, including one U.S. Senate seat, one U.S. House seat, and the race to replace or re-elect controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Arizona has a lot riding on an accurate count of all votes. Yet, the consequences of this electoral crisis go far beyond just one election in Arizona and encompass more than just Latinos.
Right now, the Supreme Court is preparing to hear conservative challenges to the Voting Rights Act (VRA). What has happened in Arizona stands as a symbol of the threat to all voters posed by the return of Jim Crow and the rise of Juan Crow: voter ID laws, long lines, provisional ballots and other actions running contrary to the spirit and letter of the Voting Rights Act. Arizona may signal a larger move to push the country back to a time before the VRA, a time of devastating discrimination-and a time we cannot and will not return to.
The slogans seen and heard at at our protests, including today’s protest say it all: “MY RIGHTS ARE NOT PROVISIONAL” and “PROVISIONAL BALLOTS= PERMANENT FRAUD” and chants of “Count our votes, count our votes!”
Presente and its members in Arizona have joined a coalition of dozens of local, regional and national organizations sounding the emergency alert about the threat to democracy in Arizona and, possibly, the entire country. Right now, Latino and other voters in Maricopa County continue their protests against Recorder Helen Purcell and Secretary of State Ken Bennett, demanding that they count hundreds of thousands of provisional and early ballots from areas with large Latino populations which may not otherwise be counted. We are talking with these voters, and helping tell their stories. Our efforts have yielded a partial victory as votes are starting to be counted. But many votes remain, and with authorities saying the task won't be completed until next week and Republican operatives trying to disqualify our votes, we will continue to be vigilant and active as our democracy depends on it.
Hearing Arizona's Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett say, "If you are not voting in the precinct where your voter registration applies, then your ballot does not count," give us even greater cause for alarm. Such statements show a willingness to allow thousands of Latino and other voters to be disenfranchised, in a state that saw Latino residents get robocalls telling them to vote in the wrong precincts and where official information in Spanish provided voters with the wrong election date.
Against such blatant attempts to disenfranchise Latino voters, we will continue to take action, demanding that Purcell and Bennett perform their duties, stop their stalling and count all votes. We will call on federal authorities to investigate and take action, providing full relief to Americans who simply want to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
Chandra Narcia is a freelance Graphic Designer/Photographer and a member of PresenteAction. She is also a member of four different tribes, Akimel O'odham, Tohono O'odham, Laguna and Hopi tribes of Arizona and New Mexico. She was raised in Arizona and currently resides in Phoenix.