PINETOP-LAKESIDE — According to the General Election results posted on the Navajo County’s Summary Results Report on Wednesday, Nov. 11, results for the Pinetop-Lakeside Sanitary District (PLSD) are still unofficial, though the numbers shown give three of the six write-in candidates a substantial lead.
Elections Director Rayleen Richards responded in an email to the Independent on Nov. 11, “I will canvass on Friday at 9 a.m. Then it will be official.”
Canvassing is approving the numbers. Once announced, the numbers go to the Navajo County Board of Supervisors and then on to the Arizona Secretary of State.
The six write-in candidates presently shown leading the race for the three board seats available are former PLSD board member John Beeler with 395 votes, Kenny Keith with 393 votes and incumbent Patrick Place with 368 votes. Maria Donaghy is shown with 178 votes, Donna Shurwin, 211 votes and Gary Atkin with 212 votes.
According to Richards, (Winners are) “the three highest numbers within ten.”
On Monday, Nov. 9, Richards told the Independent there were 72 votes to be cured, meaning election workers have to check the voter’s signature on their envelope or sheet from the polls against the signature on file with the county. As of Nov. 11, it is Richards’ understanding that none of those 72 failed to match.
As to the 308 invalid write-ins, Richards said the top two contenders written in were Mickey Mouse and Jesus Christ and some of the voters wrote in their own name.
In order for a write-in candidate to be counted, they must have filed paperwork with the county. All six of the candidates did file, albeit late, which was due to an error communicated by the county to PLSD.
On June 9, Christen C. Haddox, Elections Coordinator for Navajo County Election Services, sent a letter to PLSD with the Call to Election attachment. It stated that petitions must be filed between July 6 and Aug. 5 at 5 p.m. at the Navajo County Elections Department at the Navajo County Governmental Complex in Holbrook. The letter asked the district to post it in two to three places in the community which PLSD Manager Dave Smith said they did.
Smith said the PLSD board then passed a Resolution Calling Board Member Election at their regular meeting on May 13 outlining the steps to be taken for the Nov. 3 election, and made the formal request for the county to handle their election.
The county then published the Call to Elections with the July 6 to Aug. 5 dates for candidates in the White Mountain Independent on June 12 and June 16.
Smith said PLSD received an email from Haddox on Aug. 18 stating, “I regret to inform you that I have made a mistake concerning your board. This year the filing dates for the November election changed and the calendar I had included the filing dates for last year, not the updated ones for this year. The dates July 6th – August 5th were what I had. The actual dates were June 6th – July 6th.”
Haddox also stated that she thought she had communicated the error to PLSD, but due to the primary election rush she later discovered she had not. She apologized for the error and advised Smith that there would be six write-in candidates for the three seats.
Smith notified each of the six candidates individually by letter on Aug. 20 of the error.
“We only give dates as a courtesy,” said Richards. “It is correct on our website in two different places. It is up to them to make sure of the dates.”
Deputy County Attorney Jason Moore told the Independent that there was a statute which changed the dates to require candidates in nonpartisan races to file nomination papers earlier in order to appear on the ballot.
Atkin, Donaghy and Shurwin were immediately proactive in getting their names out by having business cards printed, enlisting help in going door to door and putting up signs as a three-some with their platform of saving the digester and recycling. Though Place had said he would put up signs and Beeler said he would do nothing but had filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General, and there was no response from Kenny Keith, signs were seen in the voting area that listed Beeler, Keith and Place as the three suggested choices for the three available board seats.
Nov. 13 will confirm the winners.