Public meetings for reapportionment plans scheduled

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. has invited the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors to join him at 11 public education meetings he has scheduled to inform Navajo voters about proposed reapportionment plans that will be recommended to the Navajo Nation Council.

In a Jan. 8 letter to the Board, President Shirley said he and Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie were working together on a variety of plans for consideration. He said that rather than dispute who has authority to plan reapportionment for presentation to the council, he asked the Board to work with him to implement a reapportionment plan for a 24-member Council in time for the 2010 elections based on the 2000 Census.

"The Navajo People want us to work together," President Shirley said. "In that spirit, my office will also invite members of the council to these meetings."

Immediately following the Dec. 15 special election in which Navajo voters supported reducing the Navajo Nation Council to 24 delegates, a team of division directors began a series of meetings to craft several reapportionment plans. At present, about 11 plans have been devised for consideration.

President Shirley credited the division directors for working hard to get the work done quickly when others said it would take 3-5 weeks to do the same job.

"It's obvious the people want us to act with diligence and without delay, and that's what was done, so that they can elect a council of 24 delegates this year," he said. "Now we'll get this information before the public so everyone has the input they desire."

Upcoming meetings are scheduled as follows:

• Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock

• Jan. 13 at 1 p.m. at the Crownpoint Chapter House

• Jan. 14 at 1 p.m. at the Dilkon Chapter House

• Jan. 15 at 1 p.m. at the Chinle Community Center

• Jan. 17 at 9 a.m. at the Kayenta Chapter House

• Jan. 18 at 9 a.m. at the Tolani Lake Chapter House

• Jan. 19 at 9 a.m. at the Baahaali, N.M., Chapter House

• Jan. 20 at 9 a.m. at the Red Mesa Chapter House

• Jan. 22 at 9 a.m. at the Tuba City Chapter House

• Jan. 23 at 9 a.m. at the Pinon Chapter House

President Shirley said that given the election results, moving forward on the development of a reapportionment plan is appropriate, timely and fitting, and that no law limits reapportionment planning to only the Navajo Election Administration or Board of Election Supervisors.

Title 11, Section 9, of the Navajo Nation Code states that the council shall designate the number and location of precincts with recommendations from the Navajo Nation Board of Election Supervisors.

"However, this law does not give sole authority to the board to authorize reapportionment," President Shirley said. "In fact, the board cannot introduce legislation to adopt a plan unless a council delegate sponsors it.

In the 2002 Resolution CJN-50-02, the council explicitly called upon the Office of the President to assist with reapportionment efforts.

President Shirley added that the council has allowed other entities to be involved in reapportionment activities such as the when the Education Committee was involved in school board reapportionment.

"Precedent is well established regarding reapportionment, and there is no justifiable reason to delay implementation of the will of the people until after the completion of the Federal 2010 Census," he said.

President Shirley said that last year, NEA Director Edison Wauneka said he did not budget funds for the special election because it had been challenged by the Office of Legislative Counsel and, at the time, was before the Navajo Nation Supreme Court.

"In hindsight, that was a mistake that put the election in jeopardy, and one that the Nation can avoid making again by all of us diligently getting to work on the reapportionment plan to be approved by the Navajo Nation Council without further delay," he said. "In our teachings, our elders tell us there are no impossibilities, and we have seen that teaching hold true time and again over the past year and a half."

Now that the election has occurred, President Shirley said he's hopeful the council and NEA will work with him to quickly implement the changes approved by Navajo voters.

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