The Pima County School Superintendent’s Office has rejected a request from the Sunnyside Unified School District to hold the district’s recall election at polling locations instead of by mail.
Sunnyside’s Governing Board voted 3-2 to make the request on Jan. 28, with district officials saying an election at a traditional polling place would lead to a higher voter turnout.
County school Superintendent Linda Arzoumanian disagreed, citing numbers from recent Sunnyside elections showing there had been higher turnouts from people who vote by mail, according to a letter she sent to the district.
Board members Bobby Garcia and Louie Gonzales, who are on the ballot for the recall election, and board President Eva Carrillo Dong approved the request to ask the Superintendent’s Office for the change.
Board members Buck Crouch and Daniel Hernandez Jr. voted against the request, disagreeing with the assertion an election at a polling location would increase voter turnout.
The Superintendent’s Office ordered a May 20 recall election using mail-in ballots after Arzoumanian confirmed recall petitions contained enough signatures to force a vote. It will cost the district about $98,000, based on a 30 percent voter turnout.
In a letter sent to Arzoumanian on Jan. 31, Sunnyside attorney John Richardson said traditional polling locations had always been used to elect district Governing Board members. Richardson also said mail-in ballots not only could lead to a lower voter turnout but also voter confusion.
Arzoumanian responded Tuesday, saying this is not the first time the district has elected a board member with mail-in ballots, citing a special Governing Board election in 2011, when Hernandez was voted to fill the vacancy left by former board member Ignacio Gomez, who resigned.
In that election, 23 percent of the district’s registered voters cast ballots.
Arzoumanian also cited the 2012 general election, which included a budget override authorized by Sunnyside’s Governing Board. Of the total ballots cast, 63 percent of voters used an early ballot, sent by mail.
Almost 90 percent of those who voted in the most recent budget override election in November also used a mail-in ballot, she said.
Three locations will still be open Election Day where people can drop off ballots.
Critics want to oust the two board members because they, with Dong, have supported Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo. Many in the community have criticized Isquierdo for a litany of personal and legal problems, including unpaid taxes, filing for bankruptcy and a driver’s license suspension.