Fraud claims emerge after companion to Enright kept voting after her 2007 death
67 comments by Lindsey Collom – Jul. 26, 2012 08:43 AM The Republic | azcentral.com
A Pinal County supervisor candidate has withdrawn from the race in the wake of voter-fraud allegations involving a former companion who, records show, has continued to vote by absentee ballot in the five years since her death.
John Enright, 66, had been seeking the Republican nomination for county supervisor of District 5, an area that includes Apache Junction and Gold Canyon.
He withdrew from the race Wednesday in a letter to Pinal County Elections Director Steve Kizer. In a written statement issued hours later through his attorney, Enright said he entered the race “wanting to bring a voice to Pinal County government” but was leaving it “for several reasons, including an almost year-long battle with cancer.”
His statement made no mention of the scandal unleashed in an anonymous, undated letter sent several weeks ago to the Pinal County Recorder’s Office. As recently as this year, the letter alleged, someone had been filling out and mailing in absentee ballots addressed to a woman who died on Feb. 3, 2007. The woman, Sheila Nassar, and Enright lived together at the time of her death.
Nassar was 60 years old at her passing. Enright described her as his “former life companion” and high-school sweetheart in a YouTube video posted Saturday in response to the allegations. They were in “constant contact” in the years that followed, Enright said, and he moved to Arizona in 1996 to care for Nassar, who had multiple sclerosis. They built a handicapped-accessible home in Gold Canyon, he said — a residence he shares today with a wife.
In the YouTube video, Enright expressed surprise at the voter-fraud allegations, but he didn’t deny them.
“I do not know who is responsible for this, and at this time, it is difficult to respond to what are now assumptions, assertions and innuendos,” Enright said. “But what I can say is I look forward to learning more about these allegations. If they are indeed formal allegations, I will defend myself. I very much look forward to clearing my name.
“At this point, I simply ask voters in Pinal County to focus on the issues and take a critical eye towards allegations that are surfacing just … weeks before the election voting process begins.”
Pinal County Recorder Laura Dean-Lytle said her staff took the allegations seriously and turned over evidence to the Pinal County Attorney’s Office. A spokesman there said he could “neither confirm nor deny an investigation into such a case.”
“This, in my opinion, is an absolute act of fraudulent voting,” Dean-Lytle said.
Voter fraud is a Class 6 felony.
She would not enumerate how many ballots issued to Nassar had been filled out and returned since her death. Records showed Nassar continued to be on the active voter rolls until officials received the anonymous note. She has since been removed.
“It used to be if somebody died and we didn’t have an obituary out of the newspaper, we didn’t know,” Dean-Lytle said. “And the laws protect the voter so that if you call me up and say, ‘Did you know Joe Smith died,’ I can’t go, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’ll take him off the roll.’ We have to have the documentation.”
In recent years, this information has come to recorders via an electronic database maintained by the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office. The program helps staff match motor-vehicle and vital records against voter-registration logs.
Aside from the database, recorder staff members handle each mail-in ballot to compare the signature on the ballot to the one on record. Dean-Lytle said there’s a chance that a fraudulent ballot would get pushed through if the signatures were close enough, but she doesn’t think that happens very often.
Early-voting ballots for the Aug. 28 primary are set to be mailed next week. A county elections official said Enright’s name will appear; the ballots were printed and delivered to the department more than a week ago. For now, elections officials only plan to post notices of Enright’s withdrawal at the polls.