Election chief: Reduction must wait until 2014

Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Dec. 17, 2009

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When Navajos go to the polls next year to choose their council delegates, they will be voting for 88 and not 24.

The reason, said election officials, is that the reduction to 24, as required by the results of Tuesday's election, won't take effect until 2014.

Edison Wauneka, director of the Navajo Election Administration, said the Navajo Nation Council passed a resolution a couple of years ago that requires the election office to use population data from the 2010 U.S. Census to prepare the next council redistricting plan.

New census data on the reservation is expected in 2012, and will be used to draw the map for 24 council districts, Wauneka said.

Wauneka also said he would like to give chapters a say in how the next redistricting plan is developed. Past reapportionment plans have been devised by tribal statisticians and then tweaked by the delegates.

In the past, reapportionment has taken months because of questions about which chapters should be grouped together. With the council shrinking to 24 members, Wauneka said this would be an even greater challenge.

Thus his desire to see more input from the chapters this time around.

There's been some push to adopt a new reapportionment plan for the 2010 election, but Wauneka said it would be impossible given the election schedule.

Council candidates are supposed to start filing for office in March, and Wauneka said it would be impossible to have a reapportionment plan drafted and approved by then.

It makes a lot more sense to wait until the 2010 Census figures are available and do it right, Wauneka said.

However, President Joe Shirley Jr. said Tuesday night at the Window Rock Sports Center, where election results were being posted, that the petitions included language saying the council has 60 days to devise and approve a reapportionment plan and, if they do not, he would draft a plan.

Although this language was left off the ballots, Shirley said he is confident a court would uphold the petition language.

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