One-fifth of tribal voters purged from rolls

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, May 23, 2013

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T he names of 28,722 individuals who did not vote in the last two tribal elections have been purged from the tribe's voter registration list, reducing the number of registered voters by more than one-fifth.

The Navajo Board of Election Supervisors approved May 17 canceling the names of registered voters who did not vote in the 2010 general election and the 2012 chapter elections.

Under tribal law, individuals who have not voted in two consecutive elections will have their name removed from the poll listings.

Edison Wauneka, director of the Navajo Election Administration, explained to the board that prior to recommending the list of names, the election office mailed blue postcards to warn individuals that their names would be purged and in order to remain on the list, they had to return their postcards.

Approximately 36,800 postcards were mailed April 5 and recipients were given 30 days to respond, Wauneka said in an interview Monday.

The election office received some responses, he said, but 28,722 either did not take any action or had their postcards returned to the office because of invalid addresses.

When divided by agency, Fort Defiance had the highest number of names dropped from the list with 7,128 followed by Eastern with 7,021, Northern with 5,641, Western with 5,043, and Central with 3,889.

Chapter-wise, Shiprock Chapter had the most at 1,411 and Lake Valley Chapter had the least at 74.

Prior to the removal, there were approximately 128,000 registered voters.

Voting turnout does not necessarily reflect the number of registered voters. Some people register to vote because it is a requirement to receive services from some tribal programs such as scholarships, or to establish residences for homesite leases, Wauneka said, and never actually vote.

If voter registration were only for voting purposes, the number of names dropped from the poll listings would not be high, he said.

At this time the only way to return to the voter registration list is to re-register, he said.

Individuals can re-register at their chapter house, if a voter registrar is available, at the agency election offices, or at the main election office here.

Another way the election office is notifying people is by posting names at chapter houses as well as a special insert in the Times.

"Hopefully we can get a majority of them to re-register," Wauneka said.

During the meeting, the board proclaimed June as Voter Registration Month to honor the act of voting and to encourage Navajos to vote in tribal, state and national elections.

Voter registration activities could take place in June as a way to register new voters and re-register those recently dropped, Wauneka said.

The election board also extended the filing period for nine positions that have no candidates for last year's chapter office and school board elections.

The extended filing period started May 20 at 8 a.m. and ending June 3 at 5 p.m.

Under tribal law, the election board has the authority to extend filing deadlines if no candidates have filed for the positions.

The election board approved the extension based on recommendations from the election administration.

The following chapter offices have no candidates: Dennehotso (farm board); Nenahnezad (farm board); and Round Rock (grazing committee).

Openings on school boards include: Dilcon (Seba Dalkai Boarding School); Fort Defiance (Chichiltah/Jones Ranch School); Lake Valley (Lake Valley Navajo School); Red Valley (Cove Day School); Torreon (Pueblo Pintado Community School); and Tsé Lichíí (Breadsprings Day School).

Information: Navajo Election Administration, 800-775-8683.