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Deschene; The Elephant in the Council?

January 21
14:53 2015

Navajo Nation Council delegates are gearing up for the 2015 Winter Session, which begins January 26, by preparing a plethora of new legislation to be considered by a central Committee (NABI) this week.

Legislation must pass through this committee before being included on the regular session agenda.

The winter session’s focus seems to be getting failed Navajo presidential candidate Chris Clark Deschene, a Page High School graduate, back on the ballot, as many of the bills – by chance or design – would impact his campaign.

Several proposed bills were offered by Delegate Dwight Witherspoon (Forest Lake, Hardrock, Kíts’íílí, Piñon and Whippoorwill), including one that would select a new interim Navajo Nation president from among the delegates. The temporary president would be subject to all rules and regulations, including the controversial language fluency requirement.

The interim president would serve until a new election was held to fill the position.

Navajo President Ben Shelly’s official term ended earlier this month, but he was sworn in to serve an undesignated amount of time until a new election. In one of its final moves, the 22nd Navajo Nation Council passed a bill to hold a new primary presidential election in June and the final vote in August.

Witherspoon’s bill would also order the Navajo Election Administration to amend the election code for filling positions not filled during a general election.

Another bill by Witherspoon would provide $317,891 to the NEA to fund the special presidential election. The money would come from the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund, which currently holds $18.2 million.

Delegate Nathaniel Brown (Chilchinbeto, Dennehotso and Kayenta) is offering a bill that would let voters decide if a candidate was fluent in Navajo and English.
Another piece of legislation that seems directed at Deschene’s political future, is from Delegate Leonard Tsosie (Baca-Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Counselor, Littlewater, Ojo Encino, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon and Whitehorse Lake). The bill would amend Navajo election codes to allow write-in candidates in elections.

Tsosie’s legislation would call for a candidate disqualified for office due to fluency to be allowed to run as write-in’s and become eligible for office if they win the necessary votes.

Deschene finished second in the 2014 presidential primary before questions arose about his fluency. After Deschene refused to cooperate during a fluency test by the Navajo Office of Hearings and Appeals, he was removed from the ballot.

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