/ Modified oct 30, 2020 5:07 p.m.

News roundup: Election day nears in battleground Arizona

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Oct. 30.

Cases 244,045 | Deaths 5,934

On Friday, Oct. 30, Arizona reported 1,565 new cases of COVID-19 and 16 additional deaths.

Lecture series examines ‘Woman Power’

The Buzz

In October, the University of Arizona's School of Behavioral and Social Sciences held its annual lecture series, with the theme "Women Power." This week, The Buzz features excerpts of two of those lectures, discussing the political and social power of Latinas and the language of Black women.

Listen to the full episode here.

Your Vote 2020 election special

Arizona 360

This week's Arizona 360 presents an hour-long program that focuses on the election and the issues and races appearing on the ballot, featuring conversations with election officials, pollsters, journalists and the voters casting their ballots in this historic election.

Watch the full episode here.

Moderate voters gave Democrats an Arizona Senate seat in 2018. Will they do it again?


Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Mark Kelly have held consistent polling leads over their Republican opponents this election season. The state that birthed Barry Goldwater is moving to the center, and Republicans are helping to take it there.

Robbie Shaw, a lifelong moderate Republican who is supporting Democratic candidates this year, said she feels abandoned by the party under Trump. She was turned off by what she sees as the president's disregard for the separation of powers and an independent judiciary. She feels the party no longer represents the unique brand of conservatism embodied by the late Sen. John McCain.

Shaw is part of a group that includes national figures like former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who starred in a Biden ad this week. The president and state GOP have dismissed these defectors as a small share of the electorate. But a recent poll from the Arizona Policy Lab at the University of Arizona indicates those moderate voters are likely to decide which candidates will take Arizona.

Learn more here.

Your Vote 2020
Read more coverage of national, Arizona, and local elections at our 2020 elections portal, Your Vote 2020.

Dems make big voter registration gains in AZ, but GOP still leads


Voter rolls are closed for the general election. In Arizona, Republicans still have the most registered voters but for the first time since the 2010 general election, Democrats are the second-most popular political group in the state.

Nearly 4.5 million people are registered to vote in this year’s general election in Arizona. The final numbers released by the Secretary of State’s Office show that Republicans still outnumber Democrats and no-party registrants in the state.

Thirty-five percent of Arizona voters are registered with the Republican Party, 32% are Democrats, and 31.7% are registered with no party.

The 2020 general election marks the first time since 2010 that Democrats have outnumbered voters with no party affiliation.

Learn more here.

USCIS backlog hampers voting for immigrants still awaiting citizenship


The election is less than a week away and many Arizonans have already voted. But some immigrants who'd planned on being first-time voters won't be able to head to the polls next week.

A record 10% of eligible voters are naturalized U.S. citizens this year. But hundreds of thousands more are still being left out thanks to a burgeoning backlog at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) made worse by pandemic closures and funding shortfalls this summer.

Agency data showed some 700,000 naturalization applications were still pending around the country by March 31. That included over 10,000 in Arizona. Then, the pandemic forced a near standstill in the agency's in-person operations until June.

USCIS data analyzed by watchdog organization Boundless in September predicted almost 300,000 people around the country and almost 5,000 in Arizona were still waiting to be processed.

Learn more here.

Arizona officials split on school guidance


When it comes to guidelines for switching schools from in-person to virtual learning, Arizona's top officials don't all seem to be on the same page.

The state health department tracks three benchmarks for each county. Until this week, the state recommended that a school district switch to virtual learning if any one of those metrics turned "red," indicating rising infections in a county.

State Health Director Cara Christ says local officials told her that was a problem.

In sparsely populated areas, just a few cases of COVID-like illness could prompt officials to send students home for remote learning. As of this week, though, all three benchmarks have to go into the red zone to change the guidance for schools in a particular county.

Christ says the state Department of Education was part of the conversation. But State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman tweeted that her department did not request or recommend any changes to the school benchmarks.

TUSD enrollment decline puts finances in jeopardy


The Tucson Unified School District has so far experienced a 5.7% drop in student enrollment compared with last school year, officials said this week, which they expect will lead to a loss of millions in funding.

The enrollment decline, as of Oct. 23, will likely require the district to make cuts, officials said at Tuesday's TUSD Governing Board meeting. Public education funding in Arizona is tied to student enrollment.

Statewide, enrollment in public and charter schools is down about 5%.

Learn more here.

OSIRIS-REx stows its asteroid sample earlier than planned


The OSIRIS-REx team commanded the spacecraft to stow the sample from the asteroid Bennu about a week earlier than planned.

The decision to stow the sample was made after the science team determined they had plenty of material and it was leaking from the collection head.

The leak was caused by a small flap that was jammed open by regolith, or surface material, from Bennu. Material leaked each time the collector head was moved.

Even though movement of the head caused material to spill out, the science team was able to get some knowledge about how surface particles behave in the microgravity environment near Bennu.

Learn more here.

In Arizona, building a wall — and destroying a canyon

AZPM and High Country News

Diana Hadley, a retired environmental historian, knows firsthand the remoteness of Guadalupe Canyon, a lush riparian corridor spanning northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States. In the early ’70s, she and her then-husband raised three children there while working on a cattle ranch and living off-grid.

Now, some of those rock walls she knew well are crumbling. Racing to fulfill President Donald Trump’s campaign promises, the Department of Homeland Security is dynamiting cliff sides and carving switchback roads up incredibly steep mountains to build a 30-foot-tall border wall through Guadalupe Canyon. Not only is the construction expensive, it will have little impact on undocumented immigration into the U.S. It will, however, destroy an important North American wildlife corridor.

Learn more here.

Mexico’s Día De Muertos Globalizes, But The Pandemic Threatens It

Fronteras Desk

MEXICO CITY — Every Nov. 1 and 2, Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead holiday to remember beloved friends and family members who have died, and celebrate life. The United Nations proclaimed it an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity almost two decades ago. But this year, as the celebrations expand around the world, the pandemic is bringing new challenges.

Mexico City’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, announced just a few days before testing positive for COVID-19 that, despite the cultural importance of the Day of the Dead, graveyards will remain closed and public altars will not be allowed.

And for some, the government contradicts itself as it allows malls, some museums and themed parks to partially reopen.

Learn more here.

No COVID-19 deaths for 9th time in 10 days on Navajo Nation


WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation health officials on Thursday reported 130 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 but no deaths for the ninth time in the last 10 days. The latest figures bring the total number of cases to 11,602 including 10 delayed reported cases. The known death toll remains at 575.

Tribal health officials say 124,109 people on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started and 7,528 have recovered.

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the Navajo Nation.

Tribal President Jonathan Nez says the Navajo Department of Health is now warning the public about the possibility of community spread of COVID-19.

Learn more here.

Arizona officials rule utilities must be carbon-free by 2050


PHOENIX — Arizona utility regulators approved a plan for utilities to receive all their energy from carbon-free sources by 2050.

The plan approved Thursday with a 3-2 vote by the Arizona Corporation Commission calls for electric utilities to receive half their power from renewable sources such as solar and wind in 2035. The Arizona Republic reports that by 2050, they would need to supply all electricity using either renewables, carbon-free nuclear or energy-efficient methods such as subsidizing low-watt light bulbs or attic insulation. The plan also has interim requirements that electric utilities must cut carbon emissions in half by 2032 and by 75% by 2040.

Learn more here.

Judge rejects Arizona redistricting panel list injunction


PHOENIX — A judge has rejected an effort by Democratic leaders of the Arizona Legislature to halt choices for a commission that will redraw political district boundaries next year while they seek to disqualify two of five independents chosen by a judicial panel as potential commission chairs.

The lawsuit was filed last week by House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez and Senate Minority Leader David Bradley. They alleged the state Commission on Appellate Court Appointments put two unqualified independents on a list of nominees for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Janice Crawford on Thursday ruled they waited too long to ask a court to step in.

Learn more here.

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