Navajo Nation conducting election recount
WINDOW ROCK, Arizona — There were a handful of people waiting outside the Department of Diné Education building. Some stood under the cottonwood trees others sat on the red brick planters. It was a nice cool day in the capital of the Navajo Nation. Through the glass doors, another three people sat on chairs outside the room where the Navajo Nation presidential election recount was happening.
A sign on the wooden door said the room was at maximum capacity.
Rosanna Jumbo-Fitch, one of the 15 presidential candidates, stood just behind the yellow caution tape that kept recount observers a couple of feet away from the ballots, election staff and temporary count workers. She kept her hands in her pockets as she diligently watched, walking back and forth along the tape, as the counts from Western Agency were underway on Tuesday.
This was day two of five for the recount. After the Navajo Nation primary election on Aug. 2, questions began to swirl about the election possibly being compromised after some of the presidential candidates made public statements calling into question the election results and filing grievances with the Office of Hearing and Appeals. Now, the nation is spending around $180,000 to recount by machine and hand nearly 48,000 votes from 110 chapters. A recount of this size has never been done before.
“We’ve submitted a lot of letters and questioning in regards to this whole election process, starting with the inconsistencies we saw during the election day,” Jumbo-Fitch said. “That led us to try to get some transparency between candidates versus Election Administration and Election Board.”
During the Navajo Nation primary, Jonathan Nez led the pack of 15 candidates with 35 percent of the votes. Altogether he got 17,073 votes. Buu Nygren came in second with 27.1 percent of the votes which came out to 12,878 votes. The top two candidates head to the general election on Nov. 8.
Five presidential candidates — Jumbo-Fitch, Frankie Davis, Greg Bigman, Ethel Branch, and Emily Ellison — have been outspoken about issues with the election process and results. Though only Jumbo-Fitch, Ellison, and Davis filed formal grievances with the Office of Hearing and Appeals that were ultimately dismissed. They alleged election violations.
Despite the grievances being dismissed, the election board heard the concerns and passed BOESAU-39-22, a resolution that authorized the primary election recount plan and the funding to conduct a recount.
“We asked a few questions in regards to how is this process handled. What are the trainings? What’re the policies, procedures for this election?” she said. “Throughout the past couple of weeks, it’s taken this much time to try to get some kind of recount done, but not necessarily answering our questions.”
Jumbo-Fitch noted the inconsistencies from how ballots are stored, what security measures are or aren’t being taken to how the votes are being recounted. Some chapter houses store the ballots in plywood boxes others in plastic or metal boxes. Some of the ballot boxes aren’t secured with any type of locking mechanism, just zip ties or serial numbered zip ties.
“There’s a lot of inconsistencies that make an election compromisable if anything were to happen,” Jumbo-Fitch said.