Navajo Nation Council passes bill to schedule special election dates for the presidency

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

WINDOW ROCK, ARIZ. — The Navajo Nation Council has approved a bill to have the special election for the tribal presidency held in August.

Delegate Leonard Tsosie sponsored the legislation that proposes that a special primary election for the presidency be held on June 2 and the special general election be held on Aug. 4.

The legislation calling for the special elections passed by a vote of 11-1 on Tuesday during a special session.

In a presentation to the council, Tsosie said he worked with the Navajo Election Administration to draft the proposed election calendar, which also lists deadlines concerning voter registration, early voting, poll officials training, election grievances and campaign expense statements.

The proposed calendar lists March 3 as the opening date for individuals to file their candidacy paperwork for the presidency.

The special elections would cost $317,891 to stage.

"This legislation would allow for the special primary election, a special general election, and it would fund those two and then it would allow the people to go vote again," Tsosie said.

The bill also proposes that each of the 17 presidential candidates who ran in the Aug. 28 primary election would be contacted and given the choice to participate in the special presidential elections.

If they are interested, they would have their filing fees waived, but new candidates would have to pay the $1,500 filing fee, according to the bill.

Earlier in the special session, the council failed to pass a bill to provide $286,247 in supplemental funding from the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance to the election administration.

The funding would have been used to fund the presidential special election.

Pro Tem Speaker LoRenzo Bates sponsored the bill and told the council if the special election was held before Jan. 31, which is the deadline set by the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, there would be no funding for it.

Because the election administration is under the legislative branch, it would have to fund the special election, Bates said.

Tsosie urged the delegates to vote against the funding until "the election puzzle" was solved and the new council could determine the funding.

Speaking in favor of the request, Delegate Katherine Benally said there needs to be an election because the voting rights of 40,000 voters had been violated.

She said this as a number of individuals, who identify themselves as "disenfranchised voters" because their votes for former presidential candidate Chris Deschene were not counted, sat in the public seating area of the council chamber.

"They have rights, too. They have the right to vote for their president, as well," Benally said.

Although a bill to pardon and reinstate the former members of the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors was not considered by the Naa' bik' íyáti' Committee on Monday, it was added to the special session agenda by a vote of the council.

The bill passed by a vote of 11-1 without discussion.

As of Wednesday morning, the bills had not been submitted to President Ben Shelly for review. After they are submitted to his office, the president has 10 days to sign or veto them.

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.