Navajo Election crisis continues: election date changed to September 5
WINDOW ROCK—The Navajo Nation Council on Tuesday, August 1, set the date for the 2000 Navajo Chapter Election for September 5, 2000.
“It is time for the Council and the Intergovernmental Relations Committee (IGRC) to pick up the pieces and to ensure that the voting rights of the Navajo people are not further violated by additional unnecessary delays,” said Delegate Ernest Hubbell (Houck and Nahatadzill Chapters). Delegate Hubbard sponsored the Resolution.
“The Council, by setting the date of September 5, 2000 as the new date for the 2000 Chapter election, and setting forth the timelines for the conduct of the election activities, took a significant step in setting this matter right,” he said.
The move was the latest action in a prolonged struggle with the election date, which began when the Navajo Election Board of Supervisors decided to postpone the election due to inadequate funds. When the money was reallocated to allow the elections to move forward, the Board felt too much time had passed, and that there was not adequate time left to prepare absentee ballots, which are supposed to be available thirty days before an election.
On July 18, the Council passed a resolution that directed the Board to do whatever was necessary to ensure that the elections would be held on August 1, citing concerns over legal challenges if the election date was moved. Navajo Nation President Kelsey Begaye subsequently vetoed that resolution, citing the need to be fair to all voters, particularly those voting by absentee a ballot.
The Navajo Nation Council was called into special session on Monday, July 31 to address the election crisis. The Council voted 60 in favor, 14 opposed and 0 abstaining to override the president’s veto in order to ensure that elections would be held August 1.
Delegate Ervin M. Keeswood, Sr. (Hogback) said the override was necessary, also to protect the Navajo people’s right to vote. He pointed out that the resolution vetoed by the President amended the voting timeline so that absentee ballots could be cast through August 7. Because of the veto, the last day to cast an absentee ballot would have been Friday, July 28.
Nonetheless, the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors and Navajo Election Administration did not conduct the election on August 1, 2000, as provided for in Council Resolution CJY-51-00.
The Board’s responsibilities now are temporarily being conducted by the IGRC and the Office of Hearing and Appeals. The duties of the Navajo Election Administration
Director are being temporarily handled by the Office of Legislative Services Director.
“The Council did not ask to take over the oversight of the Election Administration,” Delegate Hubbell said. “This duty was forced upon the Council and the IGR by the refusal of the Board of Election Supervisors to hold the 2000 Chapter Election as required by Navajo Nation law.”
The amendment of the election timeline was the first exercise by the IGRC of its delegated responsibility under Council Resolution CJY-51-00.
“The date of September 5, 2000, for the election is crucial because is provides the full time period for the exercise of absentee voting rights to Navajos who cannot or choose not to cast their votes at the Chapters in which they are registered,” Delegate Hubbell said.
Delegate Hubbell said the date of September 5, 2000 is also extremely important because that is the last date on which the 2000 Chapter Election can be held and still allow enough time for all of the post-election functions to be conducted in time to allow the newly elected officials to take office during the week in which they are to be installed by Navajo Nation law.
“If the newly elected officials are not installed during the week of October 9-13th, that will be a violation of Navajo Nation law and require the extension of the terms of office for all of the current officials in those positions,” Hubbell said. “That would be a very significant denial of voting rights to the Navajo people.”
The Navajo Election Administration is now accepting application for absentee ballots by mail or in person for the election. Call (800) 775-8683 for more information.
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