Federal officials want to know why Maricopa County, Ariz. election authorities decreased its number of polling stations, causing chaos during the presidential primary in March, Talking Points Memo reports.
A spokesperson for County Recorder Helen Purcell confirmed to TPM that her office received a letter on Friday from the Department of Justice. It requests data underpinning the county’s decision to set up just 60 vote centers—a two-thirds reduction, according to the news site.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, urged Attorney General Loretta Lynch to launch the probe, stating that there may have been disparities in deciding where to place the polling stations.
Arizona’s presidential primary was plagued by long lines, causing some people to wait up to five hours to vote. And scores of voters were incorrectly registered.
Purcell, a Republican who has administered more than two dozen elections, admitted to 12-News that she “screwed up.”
She said, “We didn’t have enough polling places. It was my decision, but that’s my fault.”
According to TPM, Purcell’s office sought to save money. In addition, she admitted that voter turnout was heavier than anticipated. Her office expected similar turnout figures to the 2008 primary election.
Others think there could be something more nefarious at play. According to CNN, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who represents parts of Phoenix, called for an independent investigation after the primary election.
“Let’s be clear—voter suppression happened on March 22. We don’t know at this point if it was by chance or by planning, but no matter what, there’s nothing we can do to deny that voter suppression happened,” Gallego said.
Arizona was on the Justice Department’s list of states that needed federal approval before changing voting rules. But a U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 2013 altered the pre-clearance section of the Voting Rights Act.
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