Update: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) issued a statement Wednesday calling the long lines "unacceptable" and calling for an open primary that would allow independents to vote.
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) March 23, 2016
Amid an election that has seen record turnout in states across the nation, one of Arizona's most populous counties cut its polling locations by some 70 percent to save money.
It turned out to be the wrong decision.
All day Tuesday, voters in Maricopa County reported waiting in lines that stretched around the block, sometimes for hours. County officials told local news the long lines were in part to blame on independent voters showing up without realizing they couldn't vote in Arizona's closed Democratic and Republican primaries. But at least one voter who contacted The Washington Post said she was turned away even though she's a registered Democrat and that election officials blamed a computer glitch that rendered many Democrats as independents in the eyes of the system.
— Nathan Rott (@NathanRott) March 23, 2016
But it's also notable that in 2012, the county had some 200 polling places. This time around it had 60.
County officials weren't immediately available for comment, but Maricopa County spokeswoman Elizabeth Bartholomew told the Associated Press the trimming was to save money and because a majority of voters get early ballots mailed to them. Plus, independents can't vote in either side's primary, and they make up a third of the electorate.
In other words, county officials bet against high turnout on primary day in Tuesday's Republican and Democratic presidential contests. And they lost.
It was common for voters in the Phoenix area — the most populous city in by far the most populous county — to wait at least an hour, the Associated Press reports. At a polling location in downtown Phoenix that stretched halfway down the block, a couple passed out drinks and snacks to would-be voters — some of whom said they'd been waiting more than two hours. At another Phoenix location, the polling place ran out of ballots and election officials had to print new ones. A voter who contacted The Washington Post said Mesa, a suburb of 500,000 people had four places to vote, and few on public transportation routes.
This isn't some small county we're talking about here. Maricopa County is home to Arizona's largest city, Phoenix, and at 4 million, and it makes up about 60 percent of the state's population. And on both sides of the race, Arizona is the night's biggest prize in terms of delegates.
12News grabbed official county maps to help visualize just how drastically the county cut its polling locations:
Potentially adding to the confusion was news that for the first time, voters in the county could go to whatever polling place they want.
Long lines were also prominent at Arizona State University, a hotspot for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), where maps show several polling locations have been cut. Sanders was losing the state's primary by a wide margin.