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Pima, Santa Cruz to certify election canvasses, but Cochise County goes haywire

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Pima, Santa Cruz to certify election canvasses, but Cochise County goes haywire

Plus more in local gov't meetings this week

  • Pima County supervisors will vote to approve the election canvass in a purely ministerial process.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comPima County supervisors will vote to approve the election canvass in a purely ministerial process.

The Pima and Santa Cruz county boards of supervisors will meet this week to approve the canvasses (official results) of the Nov. 8, 2022 elections. 

This shouldn't be big news. It's a ministerial action. Automatic. Run of the mill.

Not doing it could very well be a crime in Arizona. A felony, in fact.

Someone needs to tell that to Cochise County's supes, who are putting off until Nov. 28 the certification of their canvass. The county has 20 days after the election to accept the canvass. The Cochise supes want an independent expert to vouch for the election. If they are waiting on missing votes that need to be added, state law does allow the county can postpone the count up to six days. But all the votes have been counted. It's just that some crackpots don't like how things work.

I don't typically cover Cochise County because keeping track of 17 beats is enough.

The hissyfit does give me a chance to dive into what the law actually says about these canvasses. Seeing as there isn't much on the agenda this week, I can do that.

Can a county choose not to approve a canvass? Almost certainly not.

I write "almost certainly" because laws are only as good as a Legislature's power of prophecy. Lawmakers can't foresee every eventuality. Not even the Arizona Legislature envisioned an entire county saying "Know what? We don't like elections anymore. We're out."

So there's no law expressly stating "no county can refuse to ship its entire canvass" because no lawmaker ever thought it would be a thing. Then a certain Florida Man came along and decided no election is worth a damn if he loses one.

Now we have the aforementioned "thing."

The law does forbid votes from being discarded

"No list, tally, certificates or endorsement returned from any precinct shall be set aside or rejected for want of form, or for not being strictly in accordance with the explicit provisions of this title, if they can be clearly understood, nor shall any declaration of result, commission or certificate be withheld or denied by reason of any defect or informality in making the returns of the election in any precinct, if the facts which the returns should disclose can be definitely ascertained.

I would have gone with "reasonably ascertained" as opposed "definitely ascertained" because it's harder to define "definitely."

The law also makes it a felony to refuse to perform a duty related to an election:

A person charged with performance of any duty under any law relating to elections who knowingly refuses to perform such duty, or who, in his official capacity, knowingly acts in violation of any provision of such law, is guilty of a class 6 felony unless a different punishment for such act or omission is prescribed by law.

State law provides one undeniable method for challenging elections and it's through the courts. If a county supervisor chooses, they could challenge in court the results just like any registered voter can. The decision then belongs to a judge.

Let's take a look at what could happen if Cochise County successfully withholds their votes from the statewide totals. Nowhere in Title 16 of Arizona election laws is there a provision for re-running an entire election because a county doesn't want to play.

It's more likely the votes would just be withheld from the total and suddenly, the slivers of light Republicans hold onto during this disappointing election start going black.

Democrat Kirsten Engel would be elected to Congress, because declared winner Juan Ciscomani would lose 14,000 votes of his 5,200-vote margin gained in Cochise County. That's enough to hand Engel the win. Once and future Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne would be teetering on the brink with a 600-vote lead  go back to doing whatever he was doing in the world and Democratic incumbent Kathy Hoffman would be re-elected.

At the risk of seeming like I'm offering bank robbers advice, the idea behind plotting to toss elections because of "voter fraud" is to cancel the other team's vote – not yours.

Honestly it's the dumbest thing I've seen in nearly 30 years of covering Arizona politics. And that is something, given I'm talking about Arizona politics. 

No new facts in libraries

There's a new policy being adopted in Catalina Foothills Unified School District that will bring it under the yoke of ... I mean comply with... a new state law protecting our children from indoctrination with things like facts and retelling of events.

The Legislature passed HB 2439, which regulates school library books purchased after Jan. 1, 2023. The state laid down the law and now the districts adopt the policy to comply.

Some districts just adopted policies put together by the Arizona School Board Association but CFUSD seems to have come up with their own.

A couple changes caught my eye.

The old policy authorized the library to purchase materials that "provide materials representative of the many religious, ethnic, and cultural groups and their contributions to our American heritage." The new policy lets libraries buy materials that "are representative of many religious, ethnic, and cultural groups and their contributions to our American heritage."

The new policy changes an active verb with a noun attached to the plural verb form of "to be." That's not a very clear change in policy.

More to the point, the following policy was discarded entirely: "Provide a current, balanced collection of books, basic reference materials, texts, periodicals, and audiovisual materials that depict in an accurate and unbiased way the cultural diversity and pluralistic nature of American society."

Again, this is the district making changes it thinks the Legislature wants.

What is the Legislature's problem with words  like "pluralism" and "diversity?" That's basically what it means to many cultures building an American heritage. Is it just the word? Does it get girl stuff on the angry white men in Phoenix?

The new policy also removed the words "intelligent" and "factual knowledge" to appease lawmakers.

I mean, that says it all right there.

Catalina Foothills district staff knows some right-wing lawmakers get triggered by  students drawing from factual knowledge to make intelligent inferences. That it's a reasonable assumption is a sad commentary on Phoenix.

Honestly, the bulk of the changes provoke a shrug out of line with the histrionics that prompted them. This big culture war stuff comes down to ticky-tacky margins. The point is the fight, I guess, that singles out certain groups for either absorption or dismissal.

The thing is that kids are going to do what kids are going to do and adults have not figured out what to do about it for about 10,000 years. Anyway, 'nuff of that rant.

Another policy change prompted by the Legislature will require some time to fully implement and that's the parents' right to know. Superintendent Mary Kamerzell plans to spend time in the near future turning a broad strategy of parental engagement into specific action plans. 

She's already recommending a 10-day deadline to respond to freedom of information requests from the media and giving the school board explicit power to over-rule decisions to keep certain matters from the public.

The board will also vote on new standards for much of the district's social studies curriculum.

District leaders took two years to study the state standards, established by the Arizona School Board, to figure out how to put together lesson plans for most grade levels.

Advanced Placement courses and standards are set nationally by the College Board, the same folks that give us the SAT test.

Sunnyside grades

The Sunnyside Unified School District received the state's letter grades for each of their campuses and the results weren't bad. 

The criteria focused on criteria like test scores, improvement, absenteeism and graduation rates.

The elementary schools earned a combined 3.0 GPA, with only Drexel Elementary earning a C and Elvira Elementary School getting a straight-up A.

The middle schools struggled some with only Gallego Interdisiplinary Arts Magnet School earning a B and the rest earning C's.

Sunnyside got a C and Desert View earned a B.

Given the socioeconomic realities on the South Side, that's some good schooling.

The Sunnyside Board will also vote on a contract with Grand Canyon University to provide nursing and wellness care at the district with college students acting as interns.

The district will provide the facilities and a point person. GCU will bring the academic and clinical oversight. 

The district will also give an update about safety standards and improvements completed.

Agua Marana

The Marana Town Council will hold a special meeting to approve the election results, after voters approved raising the town's spending cap by a 62-38 margin.

Good news. The town won't go bankrupt as a result of an arcane formula.

While their assembled, the town will vote on a $4.5 million loan from the state's Water Infrastructure Financing Authority to provide two connections into the Twin Peaks and Picture Rocks neighborhoods.

The load will be paid back from the town's Drinking Water Capital Fund.

The town staff is also seeking council input into a draft update of Marana's Drought Preparedness Plan. A plan has been in place since 2007 but given the realities facing the Central Arizona Project and Lake Mead's disappearing water levels, a fresher take would seem in order.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 25 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.

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