Guest column: Navajo Voters Coalition 2019 Summit June 8 at Dine’ College
To the editor:
The Navajo Nation tries to maintain a credible identity and it struggles to meet the needs and expectations of its people. Recently, two consecutive tribal elections have been marred by chaotic and costly consequences and challenges by political candidates.
In 2014, the chief justice made court decisions to overrule the Office of Hearing and Appeals, stop an ongoing election, oust an independent board of election supervisors, and overrule the Navajo Nation Council and the president. He altered the election agenda in order to dismiss a most qualified presidential candidate.
Suggested remedies by the Navajo Department of Justice were unheeded. The Navajo Voters Coalition coordinated to challenge the decisions of the chief justice. Volunteers went to local chapters to gain over 70 resolutions to oppose the schemed court orders of the chief justice who has had no historical record of ever having passed a state legal bar examination.
With the chapter resolutions, the Council legislated to fire the chief justice, but hours before the Council took action, the chief justice quit and left with a six-digit annual pension account. There was no Judicial Conduct Commission in place as a recourse to oversee the actions of the chief justice.
The Coalition moved and succeeded to change the language fluency requirement for presidential candidates, so that young candidates can run for president in future elections.
In 2018, the election director did not order enough voters ballots. When the election commenced about 15 percent of the chapters ran out of ballots. Many voters were disenfranchised of their voting rights at the local precincts and the affected council and local candidates were denied a legitimate outcome. The election was flawed and the administrative errors caused dissatisfaction in the election process. The quagmire brought voter despair and many people lost trust and confidence in the voting setup.
The people assume that the nation has a three-branch government with a system of checks and balances, and laws, regulations, policies and practices where no individual is above the law.
The government and the leaders are criticized for ineffectiveness, and attempts are made to improve operations and install integrity in the overall setup.
But, abuse of processes and corruption continue to cloud any efforts to clean up things. Events continue to happen without any effective avenue for the grassroots people to have a constructive say. This ineffective process offers no real measure of improvement and progress that demonstrate to the voters that the voting system is trustworthy.
The branches of government run isolated from each other without any visible joint accomplishments that show progress or advancement in meeting adequate services for societal needs of the people. The wrongdoings of tribal leaders are not righted and some walk away with benefits instead.
However, the people continue to hope that the next election would bring in honest and dependable leaders.
Within this political environment, an all-volunteer planning committee has put together an agenda to hold a coalition summit at Dine College June 8.
Speakers were recruited to talk about the voters coalition efforts, the power of the Native American vote, impacts in county, state and federal elections, voter registration and purging, clean elections and voter education, rural addressing impacts on voter registration and elections, special elections, initiatives and referendums and how to change election laws.
The Coalition agency representatives will give reports, and a public question and comment session will occur for public input. See www.navajovoterscoalition.org and agency Facebook pages for more information. The public is invited and please inform interested people to attend the summit.
Steven C Begay
Agent and Member
Navajo Voters Coalition