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Ex-Election Supervisor Blames Court For Fiasco

Ex-Election Supervisor Blames Court For Fiasco
March 05
14:57 2015
LeNora Fulton

LeNora Fulton

By John Christian Hopkins

Former Navajo Board of Election Supervisor LeNora Fulton has no qualms about naming the people responsible for the 2014 presidential election fiasco.

“Outside interests” disrupted the process in her opinion.

Fulton and the entire Board of Supervisors were removed from their positions after failing to carry out a Navajo Nation Supreme Court order to immediately hold an election between Dr. Joe Shirley Jr. and Russell Begaye in December 2014.

In the waning days of their term the 22nd Navajo Council passed legislation to hold a completely new election this year, allowing all 17 of the 2014 candidates – including runner-up Chris Clark Deschene, who had been removed from the ballot by the Navajo Office of Hearings and Appeals – to take part.

The council also passed a bill to pardon the NBOES members and return them to their positions.

Though Navajo President Ben Shelly signed off on the bills, the court has invalidated both measures; ordering an April election between Begaye and Shirley. The court also ruled that the council lacked the authority to pardon the election pardon, and so removed the NBOES yet again.

The NBOES had acted to ensure a fair, lawful and impartial election, free of corruption, intimidation or fraud, Fulton said.

By invalidating Deschene’s candidacy – and replacing him on the ballot with third-place finisher Begaye – the high court ignored two election laws, Fulton charged. The court ignored the standing of parties to file complaints and the two 10-day grievance periods.

The first 10-day period comes after applications are filed and before the primary election is held. Only candidates running for the same office can file complaints, based on the 1991 case of Fulton v. The Navajo Board of Election Supervisors.

The second grievance period follows the primary and only winning candidates have standing to file complaints about election law violations.

The two original complainants – Dale Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne – did not meet the qualifications of these laws, Fulton said. They failed to file their complaint prior to the primary, and were not winning candidates, as specified, in the second 10-day period.

In addition, Tsosie and Whitethorne did not cite any election law violation, only challenging Deschene’s qualifications.

To run for president, a candidate must be fluent in Navajo. Since the application includes that question, Deschene must have indicated that he was fluent. Later, he refused to take part in a fluency test that could have kept him on the ballot.

The OHA originally dismissed the Tsosie-Whitethorne complaint because it did not meet election law criteria.

That’s when the Supreme Court bumbled the case, as Fulton sees it.

The court, ignoring the two election laws, overturned the OHA dismissal, leading to the situation today, Fulton said. On Oct. 31, 2014 the court ordered the Navajo Elction Administration and the NBOES to postpone the November 4 election and print new ballots with Shirley and Begaye on them.

There was no way that could be done immediately, Fulton said.

For one thing there was no money available to pay for the printing of new ballots. This decision also seriously violated voters rights, Fulton argued. Navajo law has no provision for cancelling an ongoing election, she said.

Fulton also charged that Chief Justice Herb Yazzie refused to attend any of the eight NBOES meetings held in October, 2014, to discuss the matter.

Fulton paints the NBOES as heroes, standing firm to protect voter’s rights in the face threats of fines, jail time and being removed from office and barred from holding any tribal office for eight years.

By contrast, many of the Supreme Court decisions have been one-sided, Fulton said. The high court blames the NBOES for this fiasco, she said.

Fulton also called for a full judicial review of the court’s actions.

“The Navajo people deserve nothing less than the full truth,” Fulton insisted.

Fulton has served in various elected positions with the Navajo Nation as well as in her own Fort Defiance Chapter. She has also served as Apache County recorder.

Fulton, a huge Michael Jackson fan, has six children and loves to sing. She also can play the violin and piano.

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