Nez issues line-item veto to help tribe's election office

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Citing discrepancies on budget forms submitted by the Navajo Election Administration on an emergency bill to help fund this year's election, tribal President Jonathan Nez used the line-item veto to deny the office's request for $3 million.

"The resolution before us was rushed through the process as an emergency and as result has been fraught with confusion and errors," Nez wrote in a veto message to Speaker Seth Damon on May 31, the same day he made his decision.

The election administration was seeking the amount to update its voter registration system because current software and computers are at risk of crashing. Part of the funding would have been used to buy new office equipment for the main and agency election offices.

Nez mentioned that the election office still has approximately $310,000 left from the $600,000 supplemental funding request that leaders approved in November. This amount was authorized to cover expenses not funded in fiscal year 2022.

The Navajo Nation's president vetoed a $3 million request from election officials for cash to update the voter registration system because current software and computers are at risk of crashing. Navajo Election Administration are seen in this file photo helping a candidate file paperwork on May 4 in Window Rock, Arizona for the tribe's 2022 primary election.

He added there is a separate bill that requests $3 million for the election and it is waiting for action by the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee then the Navajo Nation Council.

"We recognize the importance of Navajo citizen's right to vote and choose their leadership but as leaders we must be fiscally responsible and cognizant of our finite funds such as the UUFB and follow proper budget procedures when considering supplemental funding requests," Nez wrote.

The president has been selective in approving supplemental funding requests that pull from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance because of anticipated budget shortfall due to declining revenue.

Line-item vetoes are not subject to override by the tribal council, according to tribal law.

The bill was labeled an emergency when it went before delegates in a special session on May 13.

Dominic Beyal, executive director of the Office of Management and Budget, commented that because the bill was deemed an emergency, it bypassed "normal review and scrutiny."

"The handling of this legislation and budget attachments has been confusing in that several budgets were produced, most with errors," Beyal wrote in a May 26 memorandum to Nez.

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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