Members of Navajo Voter's Coalition Inc. discuss upcoming referendum

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Now that the referendum calling for voters to amend the language fluency qualifications for the tribal presidency and vice presidency is set, members of the Navajo Voter's Coalition Inc. are focusing on the next step.

Members of the coalition met Tuesday evening at San Juan College's Suns Room to hear presentations about the referendum and other reform issues the group is advocating.

More than 50 people attended the meeting and listened to a recap of the March 13 special session of the Navajo Nation Council, during which delegates passed legislation to authorize a $317,891 supplemental appropriation to fund the referendum and special election.

Vern Lee, a coalition member, explained the details of the council's action and the impact the referendum could have on the special election.

Lee, of Aneth, Utah, said if voters approve the referendum it could trigger the council to consider a bill to provide a write-in candidate for the ballot.

"Vote 'Yes' on the referendum. That's the main objective," he said.

Elizabeth Pioche, of Fruitland, sat in the audience and listened to the presentations.

After reviewing the flow chart Lee presented, Pioche said it is important for the coalition to work on getting the referendum passed.

In a separate interview, Pioche said she is glad the council and Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly approved the referendum because it gives the people an opportunity to determine the qualification process.

"It's about time the voters' judgment is trusted," she said. "We're finally being included, rather than everything being decided in Window Rock."

Another topic of discussion centered on the resolutions the group is asking chapters to support.

Anthony Allison, a member of the coalition, said 38 chapters have passed resolutions that focus on matters such as requiring the tribe's Supreme Court justices to hold a law degree and making the chief justice an elected position, rather than an appointed one.

So far the group has faced "minimum opposition" and continues with "full steam" to present the resolutions to additional chapters, Allison said.

Irvin Tyler, from Beautiful Mountain in the Tsé Alnaozt'i'í Chapter, told the coalition he supports a return to the chairman system of governance and amending the selection process for the chief justice.

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