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Jim Gonzalez Headshot

Last Gasp for Arizona's Voter Suppression Tradition

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As of this submission, in Arizona, a massive voter suppression debacle is playing out. This situation, not surprisingly, could skew results in favor of right-wing candidates.

Arizona press stories document various polling day anomalies, whereby Latino voters were over-vetted for their identification, then directed to provisional ballots, which then caused two-hour-plus waiting lines to vote in Latino polling places -- discouraging many from actually casting a ballot.

And early voting ballots from these neighborhoods have yet to be counted.

Recent reports indicate that as of November 10th, 460,000 ballots remained to be counted in Arizona's Maricopa County, the locale of Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the rabid SB 1070 supporter and notorious "Birther."

Reportedly over 1,500 clear plastic boxes with ballots are stacked six feet high in the Maricopa County Recorder's office, and statewide some 600,000 ballots remain to be counted. In Maricopa County alone some 115,000 voters had to cast provisional ballots and 344,000 early votes remain to be counted, adding to the question about just how serious elections officials are about guaranteeing that all Latino citizens exercise their voting rights.

The national media should feature this situation as a classic case study of the voter suppression network in high gear.

Arizona's Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett was quoted as saying, "If you are not voting in the precinct where your voter registration applies, then your ballot does not count. The ballot only counts if your voter registration is in the precinct where you cast your ballot."

Couple this with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Flake's weekend robo call to Democratic voters directing them to vote in the wrong precincts, and you see an unmistakable pattern of Latino voter suppression.

(Also, Maricopa officials were forced to correct voter instructions sent in Spanish that gave the wrong date for the election).

This should surprise no one. Arizona has been the laboratory for voter
suppression tactics for years. In fact, the right wing in Arizona has a documented
50-plus years' skill set in voter suppression.

This skill set in voter suppression goes back to the days when former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, as a young Phoenix lawyer, used to team up with Republican activists to intimidate Latino and African American voters walking to polling places.

Fortunately, the demographic winds of change are sweeping America. This new destiny will transform Arizona -- and hopefully within a couple of election cycles render voter suppression scams useless.

The newly mobilized Latino vote in Arizona, accomplished by key voter mobilization and watchdog groups, like Border Action Network, Mi Familia Vota, Promise Arizona, Respeto,Team Awesome, and the Latino Policy Coalition, have clearly hastened the last gasp of Arizona's voter suppression tradition.

Regardless of whatever dubious results prevail in this Arizona election (which may very well cost everyone the election of Arizona's first Latino U.S. senator, Rich Carmona) the bread and butter issues that impact Latino families -- jobs, education, healthcare, and comprehensive immigration reform (including enacting a permanent version of the Dream Act) -- must now be heard and acted upon in Washington, State Houses, and City Councils everywhere.

Nationally, right-wing fantasy has collided with working family values and demographic reality.

Working family values and demography have won.

For decades the Latino voting bloc was referred to as the"sleeping giant" of American electoral politics. As of Tuesday, November 6th, 2012, Latino voting families are now a powerhouse bloc, that will only grow and win, especially in Arizona.