The election in the Gila County Recorder’s race has heated up with accusations from challenger Mickie Nye.
He has questioned Gila County Recorder Sadie Jo Tomerlin’s handling of 80 provisional primary ballots on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, suggesting she threw out so many ballots it could have affected the outcome of local elections.
“Proportionately, more ballots were rejected in San Carlos than anywhere else,” said Nye.
Nye has run the Globe Dairy Queen for the last 10 years. He has also volunteered in the county for years. He ran unopposed in the Democratic Primary while Tomerlin won a contentious contest in the Republican Primary against Payson computer data consultant Mac Feezor, who is now campaigning vigorously on Nye’s behalf.
Nye is the current president of the Globe Boys and Girls Club and in 2005, he served as the president for the Citizen’s for Economic Development. Last year, he was honored with the Person of the Year award in Globe.
But Nye has a past. Years ago he pled guilty to an assault charge against his step-daughter and made a plea agreement on a perjury charge.
At a meeting with the Payson Democratic party in April he said he regrets what he has done in the past, though he is confident he can do a better job than Tomerlin, especially when it comes to handling questions about handling of ballots on the San Carlos Apache Reservation.
Nye said that if Tomerlin threw out valid ballots it could have cost District 3 supervisorial candidate Marvin Mull the election. Mull comes from the reservation and won the lopsided support of voters there, but lost by 23 votes in the Democratic Primary contest in that district. Star Valley Judge Ronnie Daniels came in third in that primary, in the face of low turnout among north county Democrats.
“Sadie withheld 80 votes from San Carlos...We don’t know why to this day they were separated,” said Nye, “I don’t mind losing, but I want to lose fairly.”
Tomerlin has dismissed Nye’s complaints about the provisional ballots on the reservation as groundless political posturing. The Recorder’s Office is charged with making sure voter roles are up to date, which includes determining whether people voted in the right district and didn’t vote twice when polling place workers raise a question and mark a ballot as provisional.
Tomerlin has worked for the Recorder’s Office since 2003. She quickly rose through the ranks to become the youngest Recorder in Arizona history when the Gila County Board of Supervisors appointed her to the position in 2008.
She has run unopposed since that time.
Until this year.
When asked about Nye’s questions regarding the tossed ballots from the San Carlos Reservation, Tomerlin wrote in an e-mail, “This is incorrect. First the Elections Office counts the ballots. We (the Recorder’s Office), verify the ballots. Just another example of someone not knowing the process and job of the office.”
Nye said a woman voter asked him, as he campaigned on the reservation, to question the Recorder’s Office why her vote was not counted. She said she was on the list of 80 provisional ballots invalidated by the Recorder’s Office. She showed Nye her up-to-date voter registration card and asked why her vote did not count.
Nye had no answer.
Tomerlin by e-mail said that without the specific name of the voter, she could only guess that this case involved a voter who voted twice.
“I would need more specifics on what issue this is. My office was contacted by Supervisor Shirley Dawson, who is Mickie Nye’s good friend, about an individual’s provisional ballot that was not counted. This individual attempted to vote twice – once by an early ballot and again by provisional on Election Day. But as I said, I would need more specifics,” she wrote in an email.
Linda Eastlick, the head of the Gila County Elections Department, said the Recorder’s Office invalidates ballots for a variety of reasons, including:
• A voter could forget she had already mailed in an early ballot.
• The voter moved and neglected to update his voter registration information so the information on the voter card didn’t match the address on the ID.
• The voter changed her name through marriage or divorce and neglected to update voter registration information
• The voter fell off the voter registration lists because of numerous moves and did not keep information up to date with the Recorder’s Office, but insists on voting regardless
• Poll workers will allow a person to vote even though she does not show up on the voter list, only to find that subsequent checks show the voter has no valid registration.
• A voter votes in the wrong district or precinct.
“The Elections Department tabulates the votes and the Recorder’s Office verifies the votes,” said Eastlick.
Nye has stepped up campaigning in the northern part of the county. He said he has gained the support of Payson resident Mac Feezor, who lost in the Republican primary against Tomerlin.
“I have put a sign up and told people who voted for me to vote for Mickie,” said Feezor.
During Feezor’s campaign against her, he also raised questions about customer service in the Recorder’s Office, saying that Tomerlin has moved too slowly in shifting records online and providing things like title information about home sales and other public records.
Nye has also won the endorsement of the Tonto, San Carlos and White Mountain Apache Tribes, and the United Steelworkers.
In an e-mail, Tomerlin wrote of her campaign efforts, “We have and continue to have a plan on how to reach the voters of Gila County.”
• Longtime business owner in Globe
• Currently president of the Globe Boys and Girls Club
• Past president of the Citizen’s for Economic Development
• 2011 Person of the Year in Globe
• Believes his years of business experience will bring
customer service to the Recorder’s Office.
Sadie Jo Tomerlin
• Has been a resident of Gila County all her life
• Started working for the Recorder’s Office in 2003
• Appointed as Recorder in 2008
• Youngest elected Recorder in Arizona history
• Currently president of the Arizona Recorder’s Association