/ Modified oct 12, 2020 6:56 p.m.

Daily News Roundup: Pascua Yaqui sue over ballot access, court mulls voter registration extension, and restaurants look for relief

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Oct. 12

Cases 226,050 | Deaths 5,759

On Monday, Oct. 12, the state reported 475 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths.

Pascua Yaqui Tribe sues over ballot access


The Pascua Yaqui Tribe filed a lawsuit Monday against Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez as it continues its push to reinstate the former early in-person voting site in its reservation.

The tribal government's immediate goal is to reopen the early in-person voting site that the Pima County Recorder's Office closed in 2018 anda ballot drop-off site to operate October 26 - November 2. Jonathan Diaz is the voting rights counsel representing the tribe through Campaign Legal Center. He said more early in-person voting sites in rural tribal lands increases voting access by shortening the time needed to travel and get off work to vote.

"These burdens aren't faced by voters in other communities and those voters have greater access to early in-person voting. It's a compounding effect," Diaz said.

According to the lawsuit, the recorder's office has closed an additional three early voting sites within the Tohono O'odham Nation since 2018.

UA officials worried about holidays


In recent weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 on the campus of the University of Arizona have been dropping, but university officials are still concerned.

They are worried that complacency will lead to another increase in numbers. They are especially worried about some upcoming holidays.

“We’re all aware that Halloween is on a weekend this year. We’re working hard to prevent an uptick in positive cases,” said Robert Robbins, University of Arizona president.

Classes return to online only after Thanksgiving, but university officials will still require all students to let them know where they plan to travel for the holiday. The students must also say whether or not they plan to return to campus for the end of the semester or whether they will finish their classes away from campus.

Robbins said dorms will remain open after the Thanksgiving holiday for any student who needs to return.

Navajo Nation reports 30 new coronavirus cases and 6 deaths


Navajo Nation health officials on Monday reported 30 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six more deaths. The latest numbers bring the total number of cases to 10,728 including two additional cases that was previously unreported due to delayed reporting.

The known death toll is now at 571. Tribal health officials said 112,648 people on the the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started and 7,343 have recovered.

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

Court mulls whether to end Arizona’s registration extension


An appeals court considering whether to put on hold an extension of Arizona’s voter registration posed tough questions at a hearing Monday over whether state law allows such an extension.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Steven Logan extended the deadline from Oct. 5 to Oct. 23 after finding the pandemic has undermined election integrity by preventing a portion of the population from registering to vote.

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Republican groups and Democrat Secretary of State Katie Hobbs are asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to put on hold the ruling.

Border demonstrations continue against wall construction


Demonstrations against border wall construction escalated Monday morning on Highway 85. Indigenous-led organizers who formed a blockade in front of a Border Patrol checkpoint say they were subject to tear gas, rubber bullets and arrests.

At least eight were arrested after approximately 30 people spread across a Border Patrol checkpoint on the highway for an O’odham-led blockade.

This is the latest in a series of actions mounted against wall construction on ancestral Indigenous land. One Tohono O’odham organizer who gave the name V says demonstrators were praying and singing for an hour before officers began firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd.

"They were in ceremony," he said. "They were speaking with conviction to Border Patrol and any other agent on the field, of the desecration they are doing, the harm they are doing to the land, the harm they are doing to the people"

V says O’odham will keep organizing as long as construction continues. On Friday, around 100 people showed up for a rally in Tucson where O’odham speakers described how border surveillance had changed their communities.

There’s solidarity among Indigenous tribes all along this border because we are tired of the surveillance, we are tired of the brutalization and we are tired of the genocide that this border has brought to our homeland. 17

A Department of Public Safety spokesperson said the agency would need more time to respond to questions but confirmed officers made arrests. A group of supporters gathered at Tucson’s Pima County Jail Monday afternoon to demand protesters held there be released.

OSIRIS REx prepares to take sample from astroid Bennu


University of Arizona space scientists are counting-down to the biggest moment yet for the OSIRIS-Rex mission. The spacecraft is set to make its first try at collecting material from the asteroid Bennu next week.

The U of A-backed mission won't land on Bennu. The spacecraft will instead try a "touch and go" maneuver, briefly tagging the surface with a sample collector while hovering about 11 feet above the asteroid.

Principal investigator Dante Lauretta says ground controllers will send OSIRIS-Rex its orders next Tuesday morning and then the spacecraft will be on its own. It will decide whether the path is clear to grab the sample or zoom away from the rough surface for another try.

"So if it detects a potentially hazardous surface location it's going to fire its thrusters and back away without making contact with the asteroid's surface," Lauretta said.

If everything goes as planned, OSIRIS-Rex will return its sample to Earth in 2023. Then, according to the mission's arrangement with NASA, U of A scientists will receive 25 percent of the material for study

AZ restaurants look to Gov. Ducey for relief on alcohol sales


With negotiations over a fourth Covid-19 relief package stalled in Washington, local businesses already on the brink may not get help from the federal government until the end of the year. In teh meantime, Arizona restaurants are taking aim at a state liquor law to find some relief.

For example, Union Public Square serves swank American comfort food on Campbell Avenue just outside of Tucson. But owner Grant Krueger says if every customer were to order a hamburger, he'd probably go broke, that's because he, like many restaurants, make his profit selling drinks.

A restaurant without alcohol is really not a very profitable restaurant, particularly in the sit-down world.

But that's presented a problem in the Covid-19 culinary experience: restaurants that want to expand their patios to accommodate social distancing measures often can't sell alcohol. State liquor law won't let them.

Arizona won't let restaurants serve liquor to people on property that's not contiguous to the property — which means even if the city lets a restaurant expand onto a sidewalk or parking lot across the street, they still won't be able to sell alcohol.

Activists in New Mexico, Arizona mark Indigenous Peoples Day


Protesters have torn down a historical monument in Santa Fe as New Mexico, Arizona and other states marked Indigenous Peoples Day. Protesters used a rope and chain Monday to topple the obelisk on the Santa Fe Plaza, spurring cheers from the crowd.

A point of contention for years, the obelisk was dedicated in part to the “heroes” who died in battle with “savage Indians.” In Arizona, protesters clashed with law enforcement officers after staging protests near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Video showed vehicles stopped on the side of the road and some people being taken into custody. Other events across the country Monday focused on the history and contributions of Native Americans.

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