Hopi Elections Board looks to include more absentee voters in election process

Board seeks comment from Hopi people via online election survey

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. - The Hopi Election Board hopes to revise some parts of the election process, especially the way the tribe deals with absentee ballots, through amendments to the Hopi Constitution and by-laws of the Hopi Tribe before the 2017 election.

Karen Shupla, registrar for the Hopi Elections office, said the board's main focus is on the timeline between the primary and the general election. To change the time between those two elections will take a secretarial referendum, meaning the Secretary of the Interior would eventually have to agree to the change. But first, the Hopi people need to weigh in, through a survey the board has put together.

"We want the people, the voters to get that support and to see where they are at, how they are feeling," Shupla said.

She said it is important for the local people who live on Hopi to realize that voting is more difficult for those people who live off the reservation and who have requested an absentee ballot. Right now, the time between the primary and the general election is two weeks. The election board is trying to change that time to 90 days.

"Ninety days would give us enough time to open that gap," Shupla said. "Also the voters would have time to get to know the candidates. Really 15 days for a petition to be handed in prior to the primary election, that is only a week and a half to get to know who your candidates are."

Shupla said Hopi members in the military are also a consideration for the time needed to receive an absentee ballot.

The survey will be used as support when the board takes the matter to the Hopi Tribal Council requesting the amendment to the Hopi Constitution. If the tribal council approves that request, then the council would request a referendum election from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The BIA would then look to see if it feels a change is justifiable and then if that is approved, the BIA would put on a referendum election within 90 days of its receipt of the document and the change would go into effect on the day it is approved.

The deadline for the surveys to be returned to the election office is in June 2015. The survey will then be submitted to the council. Shupla hopes that the BIA will make a decision by the end of 2015.

Shupla said if there is going to be a referendum election voters need to participate.

"We need to have 3,227 registered voters," she said, adding that normally Hopi elections have about 1,000 voters. There were 1,764 voters in the last general election. "We're hoping to get all the absentee voters to fully participate."

Other recommended amendments that are included in the survey are: qualifications for Hopi language and residency status for petitioners/candidates and background checks on petitioners/candidates.

The survey is available at:

http://www.hopi-nsn.gov/tribal-government/hopi-elections-office/hopi-election-survey/. It can be submitted online.

The election board will also put on presentations on the requested changes in January 2015.

The next regular Hopi Tribal general election will take place in 2017. Shupla said that the board encourages the Hopi people to fill out the survey and send it back to the Hopi Elections Office.

Surveys can also be mailed to the Hopi Elections Office at PO Box 553, Kykotsmovi, Arizona at 86039 or by email to kshupla@hopi.nsn.us or afred@hopi.nsn.us.

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