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Latest on Navajo Election

Latest on Navajo Election
February 07
10:15 2015
Prez Shelly  mpr SMALL

Ben Shelly

The primary election for the next Navajo Nation president will be held in June.


Several briefs filed with the Navajo Supreme Court – including one by Dale Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne – are requesting that the election be held as soon as possible.

The high court could issue a ruling very soon.

Tsosie, of LeChee, and Whitethorne, began the ballot brouhaha by questioning Chris Clark Deschene’s fluency in the Navajo language. Deschene had finished second in the 2014 primary, behind former president Dr. Joe Shirley Jr.

When Deschene refused to complete a fluency test he was removed from the ballot and replaced by third-place finisher Russell Begaye.

The supreme court ordered an immediate election between Shirley and Begaye be held by the end of December. Later, the court amended it to the end of January.

But there was a snafu, according to Edison Wauneka, director of the Navajo Election Administration.

The 22nd Navajo Nation Council refused to fund the election, leaving the NEA unable to comply with the court order. The supreme court later removed the Board of Election Supervisors for failing to comply with its order.

But the council struck back, by “pardoning” the election supervisors, an act that some claim is beyond the council’s limits. The council then passed legislation to hold a whole new election for president, with a primary in June and final vote in August.

President Ben Shelly signed this bill into law.

The council recently appropriated $317,000 for a new election but that, too, is not without drama.

That amount was requested by the NEA for running a contest between Shirley and Begaye, and would not be enough for an open election among multiple candidates, Wauneka said.

But, the council made it clear that the $317,000 can only be used for a completely new election.

So, if the supreme court sides with the petitioners and orders an immediate election between Shirley and Begaye, Wauneka will find himself back where he started: under court order to hold an election, but unable to do so because the council refuses to allot him the money to do so.

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