Donald Trump supporters carry signs before he speaks at a rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona, on March 19 2016. The Joe on one of the signs refers to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpio, the self-proclaimed "Toughest Sheriff in America." Photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo
PHOENIX, March 23 (UPI) -- Voters at many polling places in Arizona waited for hours to cast ballots in Tuesday's presidential primary.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey criticized his state's elections officials, saying they needed to do more to alleviate the long lines. The Arizona Republic reported voters stood in line past midnight in downtown Phoenix and some voters were eventually turned away if they arrived after the polls were supposed to close.
At one polling location in the Phoenix area, photos showed a line of voters snaking outside and around a church, then out onto the street for nearly two blocks.
Elections officials in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, reduced the number of polling places from about 200 in the 2012 presidential primary to just 60 this year. A spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Recorder's Office, which conducted the election, said increased interest in early voting combined with decreased turnout four years ago prompted the cost-saving measure to drastically reduce polling places for live Election Day voting.
As of midday Wednesday, only about 80 percent of the votes had been counted in the state, though the leads for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were large enough that several news agencies have forecast them as the winners.
Another contributing factor to the election chaos is Arizona's presidential primaries are closed to independents. Only registered party members are permitted to vote in their party's presidential primary, meaning many unaffiliated voters had to be turned away, which slowed things down considerably, officials said.
Ducey said the state should consider opening all presidential primaries to independent voters, as is the case with primary elections for every other office in the state.
Record turnout was noted across Arizona and several polling locations ran out of ballots multiple times.