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Election board OKs salary referendum for November ballot
President Russell Begaye vetoed measure in September
FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation voters will be asked to decide whether to raise the salaries for the president and vice president during the Nov. 6 general election.
In a special meeting on Tuesday, the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors authorized the question for the ballot, in accordance to the council resolution approved on Sept. 7.
The election board action came after Delegate Herman Daniels Jr. introduced legislation to override the veto issued on Sept. 15 by tribal President Russell Begaye.
Daniels had withdrawn his sponsorship on Sept. 27, a move that came after the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee voted 9-6 to oppose the legislation earlier that day.
Daniels did not respond to a request for comment today from The Daily Times.
Edward Dee, executive director for the Office of Navajo Government Development, explained today that when Daniels' bill was discussed by the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee, it was mentioned that tribal law was not followed in terms of referendum procedures.
Dee said procedural rules state the council can refer a measure for public vote by resolution, and that type of resolution then is submitted to the election board for placement on the ballot.
Due to an error, the council resolution containing the salary referendum was sent to the President's Office for review and input by Begaye, Dee said.
Because presidential action is not part of the procedural rules, some delegates stated the veto was unenforceable, and others raised concern about setting a precedent during the committee meeting, Dee said.
He added that opinions from the Office of Legislative Counsel and the tribe's Department of Justice determined the veto was invalid because the president's veto did not issue a memorandum explaining why the veto was made.
After the committee meeting, a letter was sent by the Commission on Navajo Government Development to Speaker LoRenzo Bates to have the council resolution sent to the election board, Dee said.
Bates said today there was no error in the procedural process because the tribe's high court ruled that referendum proposals are subject to review and input by the president.
Although Begaye vetoed the referendum, he did not send a veto message, and that is a requirement, Bates said.
He added that he spoke with Daniels and members of the government development office and commission, and the election office about the matter, and they decided to more forward with the override bill.
The election board voted 5-0 in favor of approving the referendum language and including it on the general election ballot, according to the board's resolution.
The next step for the government development office and the commission is providing public education, Dee said.
That effort will start on Thursday at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock, where the office will have a booth inside the exhibit hall at the fairgrounds.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.