Sunnyside recall election process continues to draw criticism, questions

Pima County residents on Tucson’s south side are planning to share their concerns about the Sunnyside Unified School District’s mail-in ballot only recall election with the Pima County Board of supervisors at their regularly scheduled meeting today.

In the past, residents have sat idly by while the County conducts questionable bond and office elections, but this is about the kids. Election integrity advocates, and recall supporters are urging their neighbors from all political parties across the County to demand election oversight and more transparency in the nonpartisan school board election.

The stakes are high and Pima County Elections Division is pushing the envelope to keep oversight of the election at a minimum. For years, the Sunnyside Unified and Tucson Unified have become the source of jobs and lucrative contracts for City of Tucson and Pima County cronies. Hiding behind the poorest children in the 8th poorest metropolitan area in the country, the districts’ administrations take advantage of exceptions in Arizona procurement and nepotism laws for school districts.

Recall organizers and candidates have requested to have observers at the replacement ballot site at Apollo Middle School on May 20, 2014. The Apollo Middle School site will be operated by the Pima County Recorder’s Office, and Chris Roads of the Recorder’s office claims that there is “no provision in Arizona law for observers to be present in polling places for non-partisan elections.”

Election integrity experts question that claim and will likely be heading to Court to resolve that matter. The Recorder’s office also claims that “no observers will be permitted at the Apollo Middle School location,” because the Apollo is a school that “will be holding classes on Election Day. The room that will be used is directly adjacent to space used daily by the students and we are required to maintain the secured environment of the educational institution,’ according to Roads.

However, experts argue that for the purposes of an election the school is a polling place and therefore must be treated as such. They say that if the Recorder’s office was not available to be used as a polling place in compliance with Arizona law, the County should have secured another location.

The Recorder’s office admits that the Apollo site will be “staffed entirely by employees of the Pima County Recorder’s Office and will be operated similarly to a polling place with the exception that there will not be any precinct tabulator. “ However, DRE’s, hand held voting machines for persons with physical challenges, will be in use and they do tabulate votes.

According to the Recorder’s office they have received requests for observers at that location from several different sources. They claim that facility cannot accommodate their staff and observers. However, Arizona elections are candidate-centered oversight elections and three of the candidates; Mike Polak, Beki Quintero, and Eric Giffin have agreed to have the same person represent them for purposes of oversight.

Through May 8, 2014 26,401 ballots were mailed to voters registered in the Sunnyside School District. An additional 38 ballots were transmitted electronically to registered Sunnyside voters who are registered as military or overseas voters under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act.