/ Modified feb 7, 2020 2:51 p.m.

Caucusing in Arizona, voting security, Operation Stonegarden denied

Plus, barriers to opioid treatment in rural Arizona.

In the run up to the presidential election, Democrats’ race for the White House began with a stagger out of Iowa this week. Technical issues that delayed the results became the focus. Historically, the event kicks off the primary season and this year the state’s Democratic party tried something new that brought the caucus to Southern Arizona. Christopher Conover reported on the results at a satellite caucus location in Green Valley, one of nearly 100 such sites across the country.

Registered Democrats in Arizona have several weeks before they weigh in on the presidential candidates. The state’s presidential preference election is March 17. By then, more than two dozen other states will have already had their say. Lorraine Rivera got insight on whether those outcomes could sway voters in Arizona from Samara Klar, a political scientist with the University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy.

“They give voters a cue as to who’s viable and who’s not,” Klar said. “Part of the reason why we see that the Iowa winner tends to predict the official nominee is because it gives people a heuristic, ‘Well you know, if voters there like him or her, then maybe this person has a real shot.’”

Klar also predicts that Arizona will cement itself as a battleground state this year.

“What we’ve seen in the last few years is a real influx of Democratic registrants,” Klar said. “In the past few months, the majority of registrants have identified with a party, which we haven’t typically seen in Arizona. Arizona has been a pretty independent state and it’s actually moving to become a little more partisan.”

Elections officials in Pima County took early steps to reassure voters their systems are secure. They explained the process for counting and tallying the results from mail ballots at the Pima County Elections Department. According to county recorder F. Ann Rodriguez, about 80% of voters in Pima County receive their ballots in the mail.

Come Election Day voters will have a single choice to make for president. But a grassroots movement in Southern Arizona aims to eventually give them the option to select more than one candidate and rank their favorites. Christopher Conover learned more about rank choice voting from Adam Friedman, who helped spearhead a ballot initiative in Massachusetts that calls for the state to adopt ranked choice voting in 2022. The League of Women Voters of Greater Tucson invited Friedman to speak about how to build support at the grassroots level. Frances Epsen also spoke to Conover about why the league is interested in bringing the voting system to Arizona.

This week the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted along party lines to reject funding from Operation Stonegarden. The federal grant program typically covers equipment and overtime pay associated with work done by law enforcement agencies in cooperation with Border Patrol. The Pima County Sheriff’s Department would have received nearly $2 million. Tucson Sentinel reporter Paul Ingram joined Lorraine Rivera in studio to explain why Operation Stonegarden has become a controversial issue, reasons for its most recent rejection and what it means for taxpayers.

“For the last 12 years, up until 2018, this was part of the consent agenda. It was something they would pass with a voice vote among a bunch of other things,” Ingram said. “What’s changed is, to a large degree, I think the Trump administration. The Trump administration has really poisoned the politics, soured the politics about Operation Stonegarden.”

In some rural communities across Arizona, access to medicated assisted treatment for opioid addiction is hard to come by. As part of Arizona Addicted, Arizona Public Media’s ongoing reporting series into the opioid epidemic, Jake Steinberg discussed some of the barriers to treatment and how they can make recovery difficult for people who rely on methadone to treat an addiction.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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