Navajo Board of Election Supervisors approves official results for presidential race

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

WINDOW ROCK, ARIZ. — The Navajo Board of Election Supervisors has approved the results of the Aug. 26 primary election for the presidential race.

Board members voted eight in favor, none opposed to approve the results in a regular meeting on Thursday in Window Rock, Ariz.

The official results show former President Joe Shirley Jr. claiming the top spot with 11,052 votes, followed by former Arizona state representative Chris Deschene with 9,831 votes.

Following Deschene are Russell Begaye with 7,453 votes; Donald Benally with 5,332 votes; Kenneth Maryboy with 3,172 votes; Edison J. Wauneka with 2,468 votes; Incumbent Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly with 2,463 votes; Myron McLaughlin with 2,373 votes; Carrie Lynn Martin with 2,143 votes; Dale E. Tsosie with 1,292 votes; Duane H. Yazzie with 1,120 votes; Moroni Benally with 972 votes; Cal Nez with 598 votes; Edison "Chip" Begay with 550 votes; Hank Whitethorne with 398 votes; Kee Yazzie Mann with 298 votes; and Dan Smith with 219 votes.

Before the board took action on the presidential race results, Edison J. Wauneka, executive director of the Navajo Election Administration, told them that the Navajo Office of Hearings and Appeals this week dismissed seven grievances filed against Deschene.

Presidential candidates Tsosie and Whitethorne, as well as five registered voters, submitted those grievances on Sept. 5 to the Office of Hearings and Appeals.

Each complaint stated Deschene did not qualify to run for the presidency because he cannot speak the Navajo language fluently. Under the Navajo Election Code, a presidential candidate must fluently speak and understand Navajo and read and write English.

In the grievances filed by Tsosie and Whitethorne, chief hearing officer Richie Nez based his decision on Navajo law that states candidates have up to 10 days to file any challenges with the Office of Hearings and Appeals after the date a candidate is certified by the election administration.

Deschene was certified as a candidate on April 25, so Tsosie and Whitethorne had until May 6 to file a challenge to Deschene's qualifications.

"The time period to challenge the qualifications of Mr. Deschene has since expired," Nez wrote in his order to Tsosie's filing.

Whitethorne's grievance also included that the election code states a candidate must have served in an elected tribal office or been employed with the tribe prior to his or her candidacy. He claimed Deschene violated the code when he filed a sworn statement that he was qualified to run.

Nez denied all of Whitethorne's arguments, stating his grievance was filed "almost four months late."

As for the grievances filed by the five registered voters, Nez dismissed those because the Navajo Nation Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that a voter who was not a candidate for office does not have standing to complain about the lack of a candidate's qualification.

During the election board meeting, Wauneka said any appeals to the rulings issued by the Office of Hearings and Appeals could be submitted to the Supreme Court by 5 p.m. on Sept. 22.

Wauneka's announcement caused the election board to discuss whether or not they could approve the presidential race results.

Election board member Jonathan Tso told his fellow members the results were not being called into question, and therefore they should be approved.

"I believe all we are doing is saying these are the true numbers from the election," Tso said.

He added that if the Supreme Court did rule a candidate as unqualified and ordered his removal from the general election ballot, the election board could address that issue at the appropriate time.

In a separate vote, the election board accepted the primary election results for the Navajo Nation Council, the Navajo Board of Education, the election board and chapter referenda on quorum amendments and alternative forms of government.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and

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