Election board needs to make important decisions now
By this time next year, we should know who the top two candidates running for the Office of Navajo Nation President are. The primary election should be concluded and the race toward the November 2022 general election will be off and running full speed ahead.
Today, however, there is still much uncertainty over the upcoming 2022 Navajo Nation election. The first major question is, exactly when are the official dates for the primary election and the general election?
Another important question is who is in charge of running the Navajo Election Administration and getting things in line for the upcoming tribal election year?
If the tribal election follows state and federal elections, then the 2022 tribal primary election date would be Tuesday, Aug. 9. The tribal general election would then fall on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
According to Shayna Yazzie, who is currently serving as the interim executive director of the Navajo Election Administration in Window Rock, the official dates for the Navajo primary and general elections should be determined this morning – Aug. 26 – when the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors hosts an official meeting.
As of press deadline on Wednesday, the official agenda for the supervisors’ meeting today was not posted for the Navajo Election Administration website. In fact, it has been quite a while since the website has been updated and most of the posted information is outdated.
Yazzie’s official job title is program and project specialist at the election administration. But because the office currently does not have an executive director, she has been assigned the interim executive director responsibility. In a telephone interview, she was able to share some general information with me.
She explained that the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors were responsible for adopting a set schedule for the 2022 tribal election, and hopefully that would be done at Thursday’s teleconference meeting.
If the election schedule is officially adopted, then the election administration would be able to release the most current information on the 2022 election on their website, which is done through another tribal office.
Yazzie agreed that their website needed to be updated immediately but the right election dates and correct election information still needs to be determined.
Another topic is the search for a new executive director for the NEA. An official meeting agenda dated May 27, 2021, for an election supervisors meeting listed an update of the NEA executive director position under old business.
According to Yazzie, when it comes to discussion on the executive director’s position, the supervisors go into executive session. So, she didn’t have any official information that she could share with me.
Yazzie could not confirm how far along the supervisors were with their search for a new executive director, if they had held interviews with qualified candidates, or when they might make a final selection.
Yazzie said that the meetings held by the election supervisors are public meetings and that the general public can attend.
The members of the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors are: Shirlee A. Bedonie and Raymond Maxx of the Western Navajo Agency; Martha Saggboy and Watona Kellywood of Shiprock Agency; Hurley Benally and Arlene Nakai Brown of Eastern Navajo Agency; Robert D. Jumbo and Jackie Y. Burbank of Chinle Agency; and Melvin Harrison and Arbin Mitchell of Fort Defiance Agency.
Harrison is the chair of the board and Mitchell was recently selected to fill the vacant seat in the Fort Defiance Agency.
According to the NEA website, all of the election supervisors serve staggered terms of five years each.
The NEA and the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors are responsible for officiating and conducting all elections within the Navajo Nation. Every four years elections are held for the office of president and vice president, the Navajo Nation Council and the election board.
In addition, there are elections for chapter officers and officials, grazing committees, land boards, school board members, farm boards and the Kayenta Township Commission.
So, the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors and the NEA certainly have their hands full in getting things up to date with the current year and the upcoming 2022 election year. It is important that they work together to ensure that our Navajo elections are conducted fairly, efficiently and on schedule.
Therefore, a new executive director for the NEA needs to be hired and put to work real soon.
Also, a set schedule for election dates, deadlines and rates needs to be adopted today. Hopefully that will occur in today’s supervisors meeting.
Once the election schedule is adopted and released, then everyone will officially know the offices and positions that are up for election, the filing deadlines and the filing fees.
There is much concern, confusion and consternation right now over all the changes being made to elections laws and regulations all across the United States. State governments, especially Arizona, are considering and passing legislation that will make how you vote in the next election quite different and more restrictive.
Out here on the Navajo Nation, we cannot control what the state legislatures and the county governments will do to change and altar the election laws and regulations. Regardless of what they do, we still need to get out in large numbers and cast our ballots.
What we can control, however, is how we conduct our own Navajo Nation elections. We need to take great pride and effort in ensuring that our elections are run in the most fair, accessible and professional manner. Let us learn and move on from controversies and errors made in past tribal elections. We know that we can and will do better.
In next week’s issue of the Navajo Times, we will inform you of the latest Navajo tribal election news and developments.
Then we can get down to business and start boasting and criticizing about who is going to run for Navajo Nation president and the Navajo Nation Council in 2022.
Who do you think, or know, is going to run?!