A recent controversy in the state of Arizona points to severe polarization among the electorate. Troubling overtones of overt racism from some quarters have rendered the issue more complex. Many Americans are substantially unaware of the voting laws in the state where they live. For example, in Arizona the law does not prohibit volunteers from collecting sealed absentee voting ballots.
The vote is perfectly valid so long as the ballot is still sealed when it is delivered to the polling place. A recent statement by the chairman Maricopa County Republican Committee has triggered a great deal of consternation from the conservative community. He claimed that a recent volunteer who came to a polling station to deliver sealed absentee ballots was, “a vulgar, direspectful, violent thug that has no respect for our laws.” He also claimed that he feared for his life in the presence of the volunteer.
A video of the volunteer delivering the ballots has been released. It shows that the volunteer, who was Hispanic, appeared to make no threatening gestures whatsoever, and the other people in the office did not seem disturbed by his behavior in any way. Nevertheless, the release of the video has caused substantial conservative outrage. Some commentators have gone so far as to threaten the volunteer with death. Arizona is well known for the particular character of its Republican party and its conservative wing.
Charges of institutional racism, specifically against people of Hispanic descent, have been consistent and well-documented for many years now. This reaction to the volunteer’s legally uncontroversial actions may not reduce that impression.