On the day of Arizona’s 2016 presidential primary, the line outside the Maryvale Church of the Nazarene, the Maricopa County polling place for 213,000 mostly Latino, low-income people, extended through the parking lot, down busy North 51st Avenue, and into a neighborhood lined with palm and eucalyptus trees on the western edge of Phoenix.
Some voters waited for four hours or more in the 80-degree heat to cast their ballots, according to Martin Quezada, a Democrat who represents the area in the Arizona Senate. Quezada said the long wait time was more than an inconvenience.
Latino voters don’t trust the system, Quezada said. “If they don’t have a good experience on Election Day when they are casting their ballot, their likelihood of participating in a system they don’t trust again in the future becomes that much harder.”
Across the country, elections officials are marshaling data on registered voters, historic turnout, parking spaces and other information to reduce wait times at polling places. Also helping to decrease wait times is voting by mail, which is available in 22 states, and early voting, which is now offered in 37 states — though a couple of states have rolled back their early voting.
But white voters are benefiting far more from such innovations than Hispanic or black voters are. As the nation gears up for what is shaping up to be a high-energy midterm election this November, the disparity is likely to loom large.