Tribal members selected for voting task force
Navajo Nation lands 3 representatives on board
FARMINGTON — Ten individuals from tribes in New Mexico have been selected to serve on a task force that will identify ways to boost voter registration, education and participation in tribal communities.
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver formed the Native American Voting Task Force in April.
Toulouse Oliver said in a release from her office she is confident the group will find new and creative ways to engage more Native Americans.
"With the next general election only a year away, it's important that we work together to develop policies and procedures that will increase voter participation and education in our tribal communities," she said.
Joey Keefe, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office, said in an email tribes and pueblos were approached and asked for suggestions for who they would like to represent them on the task force, which are volunteer positions.
"The task force members are all leaders in their communities, many of whom are current or former elected or appointed officials in tribal government," Keefe said.
Northern Navajo Agency Council president Rick Nez was one of three members selected from the Navajo Nation. Also serving are Tohatchi Chapter President Julie Badonie and Eastern Navajo Agency Council President Jamie Henio.
The task force also consists of former Santo Domingo Pueblo Gov. Everett Chavez, former Zuni Tribal Council member Arden Kucate, Fort Sill Apache tribal member Lisa LeFlore Davis, Jicarilla Apache Nation Councilman Leon Reval, Mescalero Apache tribal member Eric Spitty, Taos Pueblo member Linda Yardley-Monteau and Albuquerque resident Laurie Weahkee.
Chapters in the New Mexico portion of the reservation are within the Northern, Eastern and Fort Defiance agencies.
During the task force's first meeting on Nov. 3, Chavez was named chairman, and Nez was named vice chairman.
Nez said in a telephone interview the group talked about the challenges facing voters on tribal lands and the need to improve public education about ballot measures.
He added he shared his concern about the number of early-voting sites available in San Juan County for voters on the Navajo Nation. While the fire stations in Shiprock and Newcomb were used as early-voting sites last year, there is a need for one in District 13, which consists of the Nenahnezad, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad and Upper Fruitland chapters, he said.
Many people want to participate in early voting, and setting up a site in one of those chapter boundaries would be beneficial, he said.
"It is very important that our people do participate in the election process," Nez said.
The next meeting for the task force is scheduled for Wednesday in Santa Fe, Keefe said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.