Navajo Nation Supreme Court orders special election to proceed

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Supreme Court has determined that the April 21 special election must take place as scheduled.

The high court issued its ruling Friday after two former presidential candidates filed a motion Wednesday that asked the high court to enforce its previous order that the election be held.

In February, the Navajo Election Administration set the special election for the tribal presidency between candidates Joe Shirley Jr. and Russell Begay for April 21.

Last week, the Navajo Nation Council passed a bill that authorized $317,891 in supplemental funding to the election administration to pay for a referendum and the special election.

The referendum was added to the legislation during the council's March 13 special session and would ask voters to amend the language fluency qualifications for the president and vice president.

The funding allocated to the election administration would have been issued for the referendum first, followed by the special election.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed the resolution into law Monday.

In addition to ordering that the special election proceed, the high court also directed the election administration to use its available operating funds to pay for the election.

The court also ordered the acting controller to identify and transfer $317,000 to the election administration to replenish its operating budget.

The justices granted the request to shield Edison Wauneka, executive director of the election administration, from any attempts at forced removal.

"Mr. Wauneka is to carry out his duties under the Navajo Election laws without political influence, as ordered by this court," the court document states.

The order allows Wauneka to hire personnel to assist in conducting the special election and to give the election priority over all other matters, including the referendum.

In addition to Wauneka, the acting controller is protected from any retaliation for complying with the high court's order.

The justices denied the request for an injunction against the Navajo Nation Council.

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.