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Complaint filed against Navajo Nation over canceled primary election

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — A member of the Navajo Nation has filed a complaint against the tribal government over the cancellation of the tribe's primary election.

Eloise Brown is challenging the decision by the Navajo Nation Council that nixed the Aug. 4 primary election, claiming the action violated the rights of the Navajo people.

The election this year is to seat officials for 110 chapter governments and to determine membership on various committees and boards.

A press release from attorneys David Jordan and Justin Jones, who are representing Brown, states the complaint was filed on Aug. 12 in the Window Rock Judicial District in Window Rock, Arizona.

"We believe that it is a gross violation of Navajo rights to cancel an election. The council does not have the power to cancel elections," Jordan said in the release.

Staff from the Navajo Election Administration helped individuals file their candidacy paperwork on Aug. 10 in Window Rock, Arizona.

The council approved legislation in June to cancel the primary election, a recommendation made by the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors and the Navajo Election Administration due to concerns about the coronavirus.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez vetoed the council resolution on July 3 and the council overrode that veto on July 22.

MORE:Navajo Nation primary election canceled as council overrides president's veto

The Nov. 3 general election will be by plurality vote and the filing period for candidates to submit paperwork for the ballot ended on Aug. 10.

"The council overrode the president's veto, thus purporting to take away the people's right to participate in a primary election," the complaint states.

It mentions that the council's action violates tribal law "because the people lost their liberty interest in an election without due process of law" and because the action "interferes with the people's fundamental right of self-governance."

The complaint seeks to postpone the general election until "a proper primary election" is conducted as mandated in the Navajo Nation Code.

MORE:Candidates file for Navajo Nation general election

Candidates wait to file their paperwork for chapter governments, boards and other offices on Aug. 10 in Window Rock, Arizona.

Nez and Attorney General Doreen McPaul did not respond to a request for comment sent to the president's office, while Speaker Seth Damon's office sent a statement on behalf of the tribal council.

"The Navajo Nation Council has established a record of discussion leading up to its action. Ultimately, the chapter primary election was combined with the general election and all eligible applicants who met the criteria in the Navajo Election Code were placed on the general election ballot," said the statement.

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Delegates were scheduled to hear a report about the election from Rodriquez Morris, interim executive director of the election administration, during Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee meeting on Aug. 13.

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.