If Arizona has a presidential primary four years from now, state lawmakers want to keep it from being the fiasco it was last month.
A provision tucked into an unrelated election bill Monday would require the state’s largest county to have at least one polling place for every 1,700 people eligible to turn out at the polls.
Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, said that should translate to about 200 polling places. There were just 60 last month.
Yee said she knows something about the problem.
“I had the opportunity, I suppose you can say, of waiting 5 1/2 hours in line to vote,” she told Senate colleagues during floor debate. “I did not cast my ballot until 12:20 in the morning.”
Yee figures setting a floor on the number of places to vote, coupled with allowing the county to set up emergency polling places, should prevent a repeat performance.
She agreed to limit her proposal to Maricopa County, saying that’s where the problems occurred.
The amendment to HB2017, which still requires a roll-call vote, also allows the county recorder to designate emergency polling places for a presidential preference election.
One thing remains unclear: Whether there will, in fact, be such a vote in 2020.
The House already has approved legislation to scrap the presidential preference primary first used in 1996. Proponents of that change, including Secretary of State Michele Reagan, said it’s not fair to have a statewide election paid for by taxpayers when more than a third of voters — those who are not registered with a major political party — are ineligible to cast ballots.
An identical measure has gained preliminary Senate approval.
That would allow parties to return to the system they had in place before 1996, with each having a caucus. Parties also could contract with the state to run a primary — at party expense.
But the proposal is stalled amid hints by Gov. Doug Ducey he might veto the measure.
While critical of the problems that developed in Maricopa County, the governor said he likes the idea of a statewide primary. More to the point, he thinks it should be open to political independents.
Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said there is precedent for such a move.
He noted that prior to 1998 only those registered with a political party could vote in the regular late summer primary where parties nominate candidates for state, legislative and some local offices. The law now allows an independent to choose and vote the ballot of any party having a primary.