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The Latest: Phoenix mayor seeks federal probe of election

March 23, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) — The Latest on Arizona’s presidential primary election (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton wants the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether Maricopa County elections officials illegally put fewer presidential primary polling locations in poor or minority-heavy areas.

Sites across the county were jammed and lines topped five hours at some spots.

Maricopa County had just 60 polling locations for a county of 4 million during Tuesday’s primary election. In 2012 there were 200 polling locations.

Stanton says in Wednesday’s letter to the Justice Department that it appears rich areas like Paradise Valley and Fountain Hills had many fewer voters per polling location than Phoenix.

Stanton says that raises question of whether all voters were treated equally.

He also cited examples of other policies adopted by elections officials and the state Legislature that he says “has created a culture of voter disenfranchisement.”

2 p.m.

State lawmakers are weighing in on the long wait times many Maricopa County voters experienced during the state’s presidential primary.

House Elections Committee chairwoman Michelle Ugenti-Rita announced Wednesday she would call a special meeting next week to try to understand what led to the problems. She’s invited Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell to testify about the low number of polling spots that led to lines as long as five hours.

Republican Rep. Anthony Kern also released a statement saying he was appalled at the long lines and called them unacceptable. He said many voters gave up trying to vote, and said that “can never happen again.”

Democratic Rep. Reginald Bolding says he wants Purcell to explain how she’ll prevent similar issues in the future.

11:50 a.m.

An Arizona congressman says he wants to hear about the experiences of voters who faced challenges in casting ballots Tuesday in the state’s presidential primary election.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva says he’ll use feedback from his constituents to develop legislation to ensure that the problems don’t occur again.

Grijalva’s district includes much of southern and southwestern Arizona but also part of Maricopa County where long lines at polling places were common Tuesday. Many Maricopa county voters had to wait for hours to cast ballots.

Grijalva says Arizona’s voter problems were on display for the whole country to see. He says they included ballot shortages, identification issues, erroneous party affiliations and a shortage of polling locations.

10:25 a.m.

The top elections official in Maricopa County says she’s to blame for hours-long lines at polling places on Election Day because she underestimated turnout and the effect of fewer polling places.

County Recorder Helen Purcell said in an interview with The Associated Press Wednesday that she made bad decisions based on the information she had and that led to waits that topped four hours at times. The Thousands of people waited for hours at many of the 60 polling places across the county of 4 million people.

In the 2012 presidential primary, Maricopa County had 200 polling places, and in most elections has about 700. The county cut polling places to save money and because so many residents vote using early ballots.

Purcell says if she had known turnout was going to be so high, her department would have done things differently.

8:30 a.m.

Gov. Doug Ducey says it’s unacceptable that many Arizonans faced long lines to vote in the state’s presidential primary election and that election officials must determine what went wrong and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Ducey says one specific fix that needs to be made is that registered independents should be allowed to vote in the presidential primary election, just as they can in the state’s regular primary election.

Ducey says it’s wrong that voters who wanted to vote couldn’t do so.

Long lines plagued many polling places all day Tuesday in Maricopa County, home to three of every five Arizona voters.

Maricopa County officials had drastically cut the number of polling sites to save money, and the decision backfired the minute the polls opened and long lines began to form.

Update hourly