WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - The Human Services Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council met last Wednesday for a special meeting to hear an update from the Navajo Elections Administration, the Navajo Department of Justice and the Office of Legislative Counsel regarding the final election results of the special election held Dec. 15, as well as information regarding a pending lawsuit concerning the election results and the development of the proposed reapportionment plan for a 24-member Navajo Council.
Before the reports were given, Council Delegate Young Jeff Tom (Mariano Lake/Smith Lake) and several committee members expressed concern that staff from the Office of the President was working on a reapportionment plan.
"The area of reapportionment is not their area of jurisdiction," Tom said "[This] should be performed by the Navajo Elections Administration."
Edison Wauneka, executive director of the Navajo Elections Administration, agreed. Wauneka gave a brief report to the committee, explaining the reapportionment planning process and a complaint filed by Timothy Nelson of Leupp challenging the election results.
He also explained that the reapportionment process is currently holding up the certification process.
"Currently, we have to hear from the Office of Hearing and Appeals," Wauneka said. "Until that [lawsuit] is resolved, then the Navajo Elections Board of Supervisors can certify the special election results."
"If the case is appealed to the Navajo Supreme Court, it will cause further delay of this certification process."
Wauneka said he met with his staff and said they are ready to do reapportionment. First, the Navajo Elections Administration needs to decide which data source to use in determining the reapportionment. They could use either the upcoming 2010 Census count, the Navajo enrollment, which includes the BIA or vital records, or the voter registration database of the Navajo Elections Administration.
Second, the elections office will develop the reapportionment plan for a 24-member council. They would have to decide how many plans need to be developed.
Third, the elections office needs to conduct public hearings across the Navajo Nation to educate the public about the potential effects of Council reduction.
Fourth, the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors will present the plans to the Navajo Nation Council for consideration. Wauneka estimates this presentation to occur during the 2010 Spring Session, scheduled the third week of April.
Finally, the Navajo Nation Council will have final authority in approving such a reapportionment plan.
Chief Legislative Counsel Frank Seanez explained doing a reapportionment plan now will be difficult with such a short timeframe. He explained language in the initiative petition that clearly stated deadlines for the construction of a reapportionment plan. In the petition, the Navajo Nation Council had until Aug. 15, 2009 to adopt a plan for a 24 member council. The council did not adopt any plan. Therefore, if the council failed to devise a plan, the president would be able to do this. The president had until Oct. 30, 2009 to put a plan together for consideration, but it was never done.
Consequently, the consensus is that there is not enough time to implement a 24 member council for the upcoming election in 2010. The date to file for candidacy for Navajo elected positions is Feb. 4, which includes all council delegate positions. This means a reapportionment plan needs to be in place before then, but the combination of the lawsuit and the approval of such a plan will not make it likely to make it to the 2010 elections.
Tom made the motion to accept the reports with a second by George Apachito (Alamo), stating the Navajo legal counsels and the Department of Justice are in concurrence with the report given by the Navajo Elections Administration.