Voter seeks complete results in tribal election

Supreme Court ordered that ballots not be counted

Noel Lyn Smith
Poll worker Jamie Joe helps voter Irene Mason receive her ballot during the Nov. 4, 2014, general election at the Upper Fruitland Chapter house in Upper Fruitland.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — A Navajo Nation voter is requesting that the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors retrieve and certify the results from the tribe's 2014 general election.

Jackie Burbank submitted his request in a May 2 letter to the election board and to the Navajo Election Administration.

Burbank, who is a registered voter at the Blue Gap Chapter in Arizona, said in an interview today he submitted the request because there are several voters who continue to question the outcome of the election, especially if votes were cast for the presidency.

Tribal members were set to cast ballots for the Nov. 4, 2014, election to determine the presidency, tribal council and other offices.

Due to legal proceedings surrounding the eligibility of presidential candidate Chris Deschene, which ultimately resulted in his disqualification and removal from the ballot, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court ordered the election administration to conduct a special election for the presidency.

In a written order issued on Nov. 4, 2014, by the high court, it stated that any presidential votes cast in the 2014 general election or by absentee or early voting not be counted or disclosed.

The written order was released after the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the general election on Oct. 31, 2014, in Chinle, Ariz.

Navajo Nation presidential candidate Russell Begaye speaks with a group of peolpe outside the Shiprock Chapter house on Nov. 4, 2014, during a general election.

After the high court issued a verbal ruling, the election office stated in a press release it would not tally the results for the office in accordance to the justices' decision.

Burbank said he understands the high court's ruling, but he thinks the votes can be retrieved and the results released because the election board has the authority to do so.

"This election board has nothing to do with the court. The board makes the decision, not the court," Burbank said.

He added that he is not challenging the results of the April 21, 2015, special election for the presidency, and he is not trying to unseat tribal President Russell Begaye or other elected officials.


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"I have no problem with it," Burbank said about the 2015 results.

Burbank said his goal in making the request is simple.

"We don't know what the vote was," he said. "We want to know."

The election board met in executive session today for about an hour to discuss Burbank's request.

When the board re-entered open session, members issued a directive to Chief Legislative Counsel Levon Henry, who represents the board, to respond to Burbank in a letter.

The board did not set a deadline for Henry to issue the response.

Edbert Little, executive director of the election administration, referred further questions to Henry, who could not be reached for comment.

"Other than that, I don't have any comments," Little said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.