Navajo Nation sovereignty and self-determination rest with and come from the People. But there are those in Window Rock who deny us these fundamental and human rights.

Over the past several elections and administrations we've seen enough of Window Rock leaders, and the lawyers who dominate them, denying these rights to last a lifetime. Also, few care about protecting our views or votes.

On July 10, 2014, the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors allowed me to present to them on concerns about transparency for election procedures, ethics, the importance of every valid vote, and guarding against rigged elections or other fraud. They were courteous and respectful as I briefly outlined many issues to consider when protecting votes and the coming primary and general elections.

A. The Executive Director of the election office is running for president. But he is still in charge of day-to-day operations. To avoid even the hint of a conflict of interest the Executive Director should be on administrative leave, and exercising no control until the outcome is decided. Resigning would remove all doubt.

B. The election office's Deputy Director may be retiring in August of 2014, further complicating the issue in "A".

C. Voting machines can malfunction or be rigged. Candidates or their representatives, and the interested public, should be allowed to observe voting machine testing.

D. Voting machine locks, which discourage tampering with electronic vote counters, should not be controlled by only election office managers. A second lock controlled, for example, by a representative approved by presidential candidates, should be in place. This is common elsewhere.

E. About actual ballots to be read by the voting machines: will there be ballot testing to insure they do not cause wrong counts? Are there enough ballots for each Chapter? What happens to ballots after the election? Are they discarded, making them unusable to verify elections if challenged?

F. There are always glitches with some voters' registrations, addresses, deceptions, etc. Will there be sufficient provisional or "challenge" ballots so they can go ahead and vote with one of these backup ballots while at the voting place, and then later the validity of their vote can be determined? This is the thing to do, rather than automatically turning voters away at the polling place.

G. Is there a sufficient budget, for both elections, to have enough polling place workers so no unacceptably long lines discourage voting?

H. What are the security procedures for ballot boxes, and are they enough to prohibit tampering? State and national elections often have extra locks on each box; one is controlled by election managers, others by candidates' representatives.

I. What is the protocol for mailed-in and hand-delivered absentee ballots? Is it only election office staff overseeing this, or can candidates have observers to insure all absentee ballots are verified and counted?

Every honest vote counts, is sacred, and should be protected.

 

Alfred Bennett is with the Shiprock Chapter.