Voters testify in Arizona presidential primary challenge

Attorney Michael Kielsky and AUDIT-AZ founder John Brakey, right, stand in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix on Monday. Brakey sued Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan and all 15 counties after the presidential primary election. He contends long lines in Maricopa County suppressed the vote and statewide voter registrations problems led to illegal vote counts. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic)

PHOENIX — Voters dismayed with Arizona’s problematic presidential primary voiced frustrations with long lines and registration issues Monday during a hearing for a court challenge to have the election results thrown out.

Testimony came in the wake of the March 22 election where Arizona’s most populous county drastically cut polling places. The move emboldened Tucson resident John Brakey, elections integrity activist to sue Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan and all 15 counties.

In a courtroom packed with elections officials and onlookers, voters described waiting in long lines and arguing with elections about problems with their party affiliation.

“The judge is going to have to extrapolate and see how that is a representative example of the variety of similar things that happened to people,” said Michael Kielsky, Brakey’s attorney.

Alisa Wolfe, A Pima County voter, said her voter registration was improperly changed from Democrat to independent. Ed Higgins, a Maricopa County voter, testified that he had to vote provisionally after the motor vehicles division turned in his change of party affiliation a day too late.

“It was voter suppression,” he told the Associated Press before testifying. “This is widespread fraud, this is election fraud.”

A poll worker who was on duty during the election testified the computer system checking in voters would not allow her to give the correct ballots to 36 Democratic voters.

“By the third time I said ‘Oh no, this is a problem,'” said Dianne Post, who also counted about 20 other voters that were listed in the wrong party.

Attorneys for the state and several Arizona counties took steps to dismiss the lawsuit before the hearing began, but Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Gass rejected the requests.

They were also quick to point out that a computer scientist, who testified about various hacking methods, had no knowledge of the current voting system that Maricopa County uses.

Assistant Attorney General James Driscoll-MacEachron declined comment for the story.

The hearing is set to reconvene Tuesday. Driscoll-MacEachron and attorneys for the counties are expected to call their own witnesses and offer arguments to prove that Brakey’s case does not rise to the level of misconduct needed to discount the election results.

A separate lawsuit was filed last week in federal court by the state and national Democratic parties and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. It seeks greater court oversight of voting location choices in Maricopa County and a ban on failing to count otherwise-valid ballots cast in an incorrect precinct.

The county has acknowledged it made mistakes in operating the primary by dramatically cutting the number of polling places and widely underestimating Election Day turnout.

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an inquiry into whether the county violated voting-rights laws.

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This story has been corrected to show a poll worker testified that the computer system checking in voters would not give the correct ballots to 36 Democratic voters.

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