Voter registration opens for Navajo Nation presidential special election

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Voter registration is now open for a special election to determine the Navajo Nation presidency.

Virginia Nelson, a voter registration specialist at the Navajo Election Administration office in Shiprock, confirmed on Wednesday that registration is open and will continue until further notice.

In order to register to vote, an individual must be 18 or older and bring their Certificate of Indian Blood, Social Security card and a state issued driver's license or identification card to any of the election administration's agency offices.

Nelson said during the Nov. 4 general election, there were a number of registered voters who had invalid addresses so she advises people to check their voter status by contacting the agency election office.

Edison Wauneka, executive director of the election administration, announced earlier in the month that the special election to fill the presidency would be Dec. 23.

On Wednesday, Nelson said that date is now pending since no decision has been issued for the grievance against presidential candidate Russell Begaye. If Begaye survives the challenge, he will face Joe Shirley Jr. in the presidential race.

Former presidential candidate Myron McLaughlin filed a grievance against Begaye in the Navajo Office of Hearings and Appeals on Oct. 31.

The grievance challenges Begaye's qualification for the presidency, alleging he did not maintain an "unswerving loyalty" to the tribe while he served as a shareholder representative for the Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company and that he abused his authority by having the company pay for legal expenses and for attending shareholder meetings.

"Right now, we don't foresee an election on the 23rd," Nelson said, adding that either party could appeal the Office of Hearings and Appeals decision with the Navajo Nation Supreme Court.

Wauneka could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Nelson said the agency election office is also accepting candidacy applications to fill the Shiprock Agency position left vacant by Jonathan Tso on the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors.

Tso was one of nine members removed from the election board on Oct. 31 by the tribe's Supreme Court because they were found in contempt of court for failing to comply with a court order to reprint the general election ballot without the name of Chris Deschene, who was disqualified as a presidential candidate, and to postpone the general election.

The deadline for the candidacy application is Dec. 1 and a special election will be held at a later date to fill the seat, Nelson said.

The election board is composed of 10 members, with each of the five agencies having two seats on the board, according to tribal law.

The agency's other seat was held by Wallace Charley. Nelson said the 19 chapters within the Northern Agency have until Dec. 31 to appoint someone to complete the remainder of Charley's term, which ends on Jan. 14.

On Tuesday, Wauneka certified some of the positions from the Nov. 4 general election.

A statement was attached to the results, which are posted on the election administration's website, explaining that some positions were not certified because of "pending grievance cases" and some elected officials have yet to file campaign expense statements.

Among those who have not filed an expense report is Watona Kellywood, who was elected to represent the Northern Agency on the election board.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.