Shirley and Begaye contest new presidential election

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Two presidential candidates for the Navajo Nation are asking the Navajo Nation Supreme Court to invalidate council resolutions that call for a new presidential election.

Former president Joe Shirley, Jr. and Russell Begaye both filed briefs with the high court as "friends of the court" to invalidate the Navajo Nation council resolution which called for a new primary and presidential election in June and August. The two want a special election immediately with only their two names on the ballot.

Two former presidential candidates Dale E. Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne originally challenged presidential candidate's Chris Deschene's candidacy on the basis of whether he was fluent in Navajo. They also filed motions with the court in January to overturn the council resolution of Dec. 30 that called for a new primary and general election and another resolution that pardoned the Navajo Nation Board of Election Supervisors.

The council resolution calls for a new primary and general election to take place in June and August with the 17 candidates who were certified for the primary election held last year, including Deschene.

The Office of Hearings and Appeals disqualified Deschene because of his refusal to answer questions in Navajo.

Shirley's brief states that the case is about reasonable expectations embodied in the election code and those created by decisions of the court following due process opportunities to be heard.

"This case is about depriving the prevailing candidate of the primary election fruits of his hard-won victory and likely about elements in Navajo Nation politics using an improper council to get back at Shirley for his advocacy of government reform," reads Shirley's brief.

Shirley also states that with a limited amount of funds for the election, he is being harmed by having to continue to fund another election.

Begaye's brief, filed on Feb. 6, said that after Deschene was disqualified, he "received the next highest votes in the primary election and therefore is the candidate to be placed on the official ballot for the general election."

"This means that the special run-off election and the special general election is not allowed pursuant to Navajo law and in fact violates [it]," Begaye's brief said.

Begaye's brief also said including Deschene on further ballots will take the election back to where the "election disarray" first began.

"Furthermore, the continued presidential election oversteps [Navajo law] that provides the term of office of the president shall be four (4) years," Begaye's brief said.

On Feb. 11, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court said it would not hear oral arguments regarding the council resolutions passed in December. Tsosie and Whitethorne filed motions that question the validity of the resolutions. The first resolution set out a new special primary and general election and the second pardoned and reinstated the board of election supervisors who were held in contempt of court after their refusal to schedule a new presidential election without Deschene's name on the ballot.

The court said a decision about the validity of the resolutions will be issued at the earliest opportunity.

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