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FARMINGTON — The board and the office in charge of Navajo Nation elections are seeking to cancel the Aug. 4 primary election for chapter governments due to the coronavirus.

Instead, the general election in November would be by plurality voting to determine chapter presidents, vice presidents and secretary-treasurers, seats for alternative forms of government and memberships on grazing committees, land boards, school boards, farm boards and the election board.

"Essentially, the concerns are over the safety of the voting public, candidates, poll officials and staff of the election administration. For purposes of mitigating the spread of COVID-19, the request is made for the cancellation of the primary election and that one election be held on Nov. 3," the bill states.

Coronavirus on Navajo Nation: COVID-19 could cancel fair season

The Navajo Board of Election Supervisors made the recommendation in a resolution on May 13 and included a new timeline for the election. The timeline shows the filing period for candidates opening on July 25 and closing on Aug. 5.

The Navajo Election Administration backed the board's recommendation in a letter to the Navajo Nation Council.

Rodriquez Morris, interim executive director for the election administration, wrote that an assessment for available resources to hold the election without a primary was completed before the office backed the cancellation.

"The primary concern in proceeding with elections as codified within the election code is the safety of the NEA staff, volunteers and the general public. The COVID-19 pandemic makes it difficult to proceed with the elections as it has been done in the past," Morris wrote.

To ensure a safe election, the election administration would need to redevelop its six offices to mitigate direct and community spread of the coronavirus and acquire personal protective equipment for staff, poll workers, volunteers and voters.

Also needed is additional time for the election office to work with the Navajo Health Command Operations Center to set up protocols and procedures for a safe election process, including distributing protective equipment to polling sites, training permanent and temporary staff, and considering alternatives to vote by absentee ballot, by mail or curbside.

Time is also needed to work with the company that prints ballots and stores the voting machines.

The letter mentions the office will seek additional supplemental funding from the council due to "significant additional expenditures" for the election. It adds later that the office is in dire need of new computers, software and other equipment.

Last month, the election board postponed the opening date for candidates to file paperwork for the election.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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