Early voting to start for Navajo Nation general election

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
An employee with the Navajo Election Administration helps an individual file candidacy paperwork on Aug. 10, 2020 in Window Rock, Arizona for the tribe's general election.

GALLUP — Early voting starts on Oct. 5 for the general election to determine seats for chapter governments, school boards and other offices on the Navajo Nation.

The early voting period runs through Oct. 30 and voters can cast ballots at any of the agency election offices in Shiprock and Crownpoint, and in Chinle, Tuba City and Window Rock in Arizona.

Also beginning on Oct. 5, the election office will mail absentee ballots to voters who submit applications.

The absentee ballot application and its instructions are on the Navajo Election Administration website at navajoelections.navajo-nsn.gov. The application deadline is Oct. 19 at 5 p.m.

This year's election faces unusual circumstances due to the new coronavirus, pending litigation in two separate actions filed in the Window Rock Judicial District and emergency legislation to postpone the election to next year.

"We still have everything moving forward for the Nov. 3 general election," said Rodriquez Morris, interim executive director of the election administration.

The Navajo Department of Health has issued a public health emergency order for elections. It calls for social distancing during in-person voting, cleaning highly touched surfaces, wearing face masks, providing access to hand-washing stations, hand sanitizers or gloves and limiting the number of people in any enclosed area.

"I think we'll have an increase in absentee ballots for this election cycle. … Of course, we're doing everything we can to ensure that we have a safe election," Morris said.

Candidates seeking chapter government seats wait to file their paperwork on Aug. 10, 2020 in Window Rock, Arizona.

This includes following the health department order, securing personal protective equipment for employees, poll officials and voters and working with the Division of Community Development to ready the 110 chapter precincts, he explained.

The election administration is still seeking poll officials for voting precincts, which can have up to five poll officials on Election Day, he said.

Stay updated: Here are the latest coronavirus updates from San Juan County, Four Corners region

As for the court cases, the complaint filed over the cancellation of the primary election has a court hearing scheduled in December.

The second case alleges the Navajo Nation Council violated tribal law when the reapportionment plan for school boards was approved in April by the Health, Education and Human Service Committee.

A hearing is scheduled on Oct. 27 in Window Rock Judicial District court in Arizona.

Delegate Elmer Begay is sponsoring emergency legislation to delay the election to 2021 and extend the terms of current officials until the election is certified and new officials are inaugurated.

Begay, who could not be reached for comment, mentioned his bill during the tribal council's special session on Sept. 30.

He told delegates in the Navajo language to think about the proposal, but no action was taken to add it to the agenda for consideration.

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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