Many board members heard complaints about process

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FARMINGTON — After receiving several reports about ballot issues during the general election on Tuesday, the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors has directed the Navajo Election Administration to complete a vote count.

Under that edict, the election administration will count ballots by hand that could not be counted by ballot machines, in addition to counting absentee ballots received on Tuesday and counting challenged votes.

Information about the election board's order was outlined in a statement issued late Thursday by the Office of the Speaker. The election administration is under the authority of the legislative branch.

The vote count order to the election administration came after several election board members received calls and messages on Tuesday about ballot shortages and voters not having the opportunity to vote.

Thursday's statement explained there were three reasons for the shortages and voting delay.

The first reason was due to voter confusion about the referendum for proposed salary increases for the president and vice president. Some voters opposed the increase, then selected one of the options for salary amounts, which resulted in a spoiled ballot. Polling officers had to reissue ballots in those cases.

Second, when precincts started running short on ballots, polling officers were instructed to issue photocopies of ballots to voters.

Third, polling officers were instructed to take the contact information of any voter who was still waiting in line to cast a ballot when polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday. But the board's statement says that information was not conveyed quickly. The statement is unclear as to whether those voters were allowed to cast a ballot that evening or whether they were told would be offered that chance later.

The statement goes on to say any voter who was waiting in line Tuesday night who left his or her contact information will be allowed to cast a ballot at the agency election office.

"The election administration will be contacting those voters who were listed at the polling sites," according to the statement.

The election board's action was taken after it met in executive session during a regular meeting on Thursday in Window Rock, Arizona.

Two board members contacted by The Daily Times today declined to comment, explaining they were advised not to comment to the media.

When asked if any chapters in the Northern Agency had been affected by ballot issues, one board member said the problem occurred across the reservation.

Election board chairman Melvin Harrison did not return a phone call, and an employee at the election administration in Window Rock referred questions to Levon Henry, the tribal council's chief legislative counsel, who could not be reached today by The Daily Times.

"While many factors contributed to the issues that occurred, we understand that every registered voter has the right to have their vote counted and we are doing our best to assure that happens," the election board statement reads.

Results from the general election remain unofficial until certification by the election board following a 10-day grievance period, which started Wednesday, according to the election administration.

According to the election board statement, voters who were not able to cast a ballot on Tuesday and submitted their name and contact information to a precinct may contact the election administration at 800-775-8683.

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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