Supervisors want clear district OKs to nix board elections
Several uncontested Yuma County school board elections won't be canceled without written support, from their superintendents, to scrub the races from the fall ballot.
Seven school districts, including Arizona Western College, have not drawn enough candidate interest to hold a competitive election in November. The Somerton and Wellton elementary school districts have attracted no candidates at all for their two-year positions.
State law allows county supervisors to cancel board elections if the number of people who file nominating positions is less than or equal to the number of available positions, and directly appoint the people who did submit nomination paperwork. It's a cost and time-saving measure that has been used locally before.
Still, the Yuma County Board of Supervisors decided Wednesday to hold off on making the decision without the schools' input.
Supervisor Greg Ferguson said he'd received emails from school board members asking him not to cancel the elections.
He said county staff shouldn't make recommendations about canceling the elections. Rather, it should come from the school districts.
“It's not our election, it's theirs,” he said.
This year's noncontested races include:
•Yuma Union High School: Three four-year terms. Three candidates filed to run for the board: Bruce Gwynn, Yira Hoffman and Linda Munk.
• Yuma Elementary: Three four-year terms. Two candidates have filed: Maureen Irr and J.P. Melchionne, who filed as a write-in candidate.
• Gadsden Elementary: Two four-year terms. Tadeo Azael De La Hoya and Rosa Varela have filed.
• Somerton Elementary: One two-year term. Nobody has filed.
• Hyder Elementary: Three four-year terms. Ethel Fuller, Guadalupe Mayorquin and Karen Reed have filed.
• Wellton Elementary: Two two-year terms. Nobody has filed.
• Arizona Western College: One two-year term. Dennis Booth has filed.
The school districts have until noon Friday to send written acknowledgement and support of their elections' cancellation. Friday is the latest the ballots can be changed.
Sue Reynolds, Yuma County elections officer, said County Superintendent of Schools Tom Tyree had notified the districts that their elections could be canceled, but the county had received no objection in response.
Tyree, whose office administers school board elections, said he didn't know how the districts felt about canceling elections but he speculated that they knew it was a potential outcome of not having enough candidates to field a competitive race. He promised to contact school administrators to confirm that. (The boards themselves can't green-light the cancellations because of a prohibitive turnaround time — they'd each need to call and post a public meeting at least 24 hours in advance to vote on the matter, making it very difficult to hold the meetings in time for the Friday deadline.)
Keeping the uncontested races on the ballots will require the county to add blank lines for write-ins — even though it is too late for any new official write-in candidates to be considered, so any names other than declared write-ins wouldn't even count. This would slow down the tabulation.
There's also a financial cost to the schools. Reynolds said running an election costs between $5,000 and $26,000 just from her side of the house. This covers a range of services, such as developing a database to distribute ballots, the creation of ballots (including drafts) and the printing and mailing of sample ballots, and staffing and outfitting vote centers. It doesn't include fees from the recorder's office, which handles early voting.
Supervisor Casey Prochaska said a tiny school district like Hyder, which has as many candidates as it has open seats, couldn't afford to run an uncontested election.
“Where's their letter?” Ferguson asked.
In the same vein, the Supervisors also held off on canceling the election for the county pest control abatement board until they submit a note in support. (Five people submitted for the five open seats.) Reynolds said Wednesday they'd confirmed verbally that they supported the cancellation, so she expected it to go through.
The Supervisors agreed to cancel the elections for the hospital district and Martinez Lake fire district boards, which also weren't competitive, because they had submitted notes saying they supported this move. The people who did apply to run for those boards will be automatically installed.
Hillary Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.