Navajo Nation Council tables bill to fund presidential special election

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Members of the Navajo Nation Council have tabled legislation that would have provided money to fund a special election for the tribal presidency.

The bill requests $286,247 in supplemental funding from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance to pay for the election. It was presented to the council during a special session on Tuesday.

On Dec. 17, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court granted a motion by the Navajo Election Administration to allow time beyond Dec. 23 to have the special election. The high court ordered the special election to be conducted no later than Jan. 31.

The presidential election was separated from the Nov. 4 general election after presidential candidate Chris Deschene — who faced Joe Shirley Jr. — was disqualified.

Pro Tem Speaker LoRenzo Bates, the bill's sponsor, told delegates that the funding is needed for the special election, even though no date has been set.

If no money is available then the Legislative Branch, which oversees the election administration, would use funding from its coffers, Bates added.

Delegate Leonard Tsosie opposed the measure and said Chief Justice Herb Yazzie did not have the authority to extend the election beyond Dec. 23.

Tsosie said the solution is to start the process for choosing a president over with a new primary and general election.

Delegate Walter Phelps motioned to table the legislation until Dec. 30, which would allow the council time to address the other pieces of legislation that focus on the presidential special election.

During debate on a separate bill, Delegate Dwight Witherspoon attempted to add a $319,891 appropriation for the election administration but the council voted against his motion.

The council's action comes a day after former members of the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors filed a petition for permanent injunction with the Supreme Court.

The petition asks the Supreme Court to reinstate the election supervisors and reinstate their ability to run for elected office.

In October, the high court removed the election supervisors and banned them for eight years from seeking tribal elected office because they did not follow a court order to postpone the Nov. 4 general election and reprint the ballots without Deschene's name.

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.