Petition filed in Navajo Nation Supreme Court to remove Chris Deschene as presidential candidate

Noel Lyn Smith
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A petition has been filed asking the Navajo Nation Supreme Court to order the tribe's election board and office to remove Chris Deschene as a presidential candidate from the general election ballot.

Attorneys David Jordan and Justin Jones filed a petition for a writ of mandamus on behalf of their clients, Dale E. Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne, with the tribe's high court on Tuesday.

A writ of mandamus is an order from a court to a government official or entity to properly fulfill their official duties.

The petition was filed a day after the election board reaffirmed an earlier decision to continue the Nov. 4 general election with Deschene and Joe Shirley Jr. on the ballot as presidential candidates.

It claims the election board and election office are not following the Oct. 9 order from the Navajo Office of Hearings and Appeals that disqualified Deschene as a candidate because he did not cooperate with a Navajo language fluency test.

The Office of Hearings and Appeals decision also ordered the election office to replace Deschene's name with the candidate who finished third in the Aug. 26 primary election, as mandated by tribal law.

According to the official results from the primary election, Shirley finished first with 11,052 votes, Deschene in second place with 9,831 votes and Navajo Nation Council Delegate Russell Begaye in third place with 7,453 votes.

The petition also requests that this process be completed and that Deschene be ordered to cease campaign activities, which the court document says is a "violation" of Navajo law.

"He was declared and ordered by OHA that he is not qualified to be a candidate for the Office of Navajo Nation President," the petition states.

Jordan and Jones also wrote that the tribe is in a "state of crisis" over the impending general election, which is due to the unwillingness of the election board and election office to comply.

"Moreover, this election dispute needs to be brought to a speedy end. The Navajo people deserve to know, once and for all, who will be the candidates for president in this upcoming election," the petition states.

The attorneys also say they did not file the petition in tribal district court because the process would take too long. They say that by the time the election office, election board and Deschene complied, the election would be over.

Edison Wauneka, executive director of the Navajo Election Administration, declined to comment about the petition.

Election board chairman Wallace Charley said he received a copy of the petition Wednesday morning and he worries that the voting rights of those who already cast ballots would be violated.

"We're willing to comply with the Supreme Court order but there's voters rights that we need to address," Charley said.

He added that the election board will have a special meeting to discuss the petition at 9 a.m. today in Window Rock, Ariz.

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

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