Democrats settle with Arizona officials in suit over primary voting problems

(Reuters) - The Democratic National Committee on Friday said it settled part of a federal lawsuit over the actions of Arizona poll officials during the presidential primary that caused voters long waits and critics said disenfranchised some, especially minorities.

The suit, filed in April in U.S. District Court in Arizona, targeted the decision to sharply cut polling locations in Maricopa County, causing waits of up to five hours for those casting ballots during the March 22 primary.

“This is a great victory for Arizonans, and for our democracy,” Donna Brazile, interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement. “We know that long lines depress turnout.”

Representatives for the Maricopa County Board of Directors, the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office and the Secretary of State did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The election had been mired in controversy from the outset, with polling sites cut to 60, down from 200 in 2012, in a move that officials said was designed to cut costs.

County officials were quick to take blame for the cuts, saying they misjudged voter turnout, based on recent history and increasing mail-in votes.

Maricopa County miscalculated voter turnout and underestimated the number of vote centers needed for the March presidential primaries, the Democratic National Committee said in the statement.

As part of the settlement, Maricopa County election officials agreed to consider the Democrats’ recommendations on polling place queuing and the use of electronic management systems, a copy of the agreement showed.

The Democratic nominating contest for the Nov. 8 presidential election was won by Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Both their campaigns joined the lawsuit.

The settlement has no bearing on other elements of the lawsuit, such as a challenge to a law banning organizers from collecting mail-in ballots from a voter’s home for delivery to polling locations.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Clarence Fernandez