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From the Publisher: Tribal primary election less than one year away

The Navajo Nation Primary Election is just about 11 months away but official dates for the tribal primary and general elections have yet to be decided. If this is an indication of how the 2022 tribal election year is going to take place, then we could be in for many months of uncertainty and surprises.

The Navajo Board of Election Supervisors held a meeting on Thursday, Aug. 26, and they had a busy agenda but deciding election dates was not one of the items they took action on.

They did, however, agree on a new executive director for the Navajo Election Administration. According to NEA Interim Director Shayna Yazzie, the supervisors did conduct interviews and they hired a new director but they will not release the name of the new person until he or she has been properly cleared through the Navajo Nation personnel hiring system.

The new executive director of the NEA should be announced and introduced to the general public in the near future.

Other business that the supervisors took care of was establishing filing deadlines for certain vacant elective positions at the chapter level. Those positions include the Farm Board for Tsaile-Wheatfields, Many Farms and Dennehotso chapters. Also the Grazing Committee for Lukachukai and Casamero Lake chapters.

The filing deadlines actually started on Aug. 21 at 8 a.m. and will end on Sept. 9 at 5 p.m. For more information contact the NEA in Window Rock at 928-871-6367, or your local election office.

One issue that has consistently hampered the election office’s efforts to conduct efficient tribal elections is the lack of funding. The NEA lies within the legislative branch of the Navajo Nation government and directly under the supervision of the speaker’s office.

In conversations I have had with past and current election staff, they maintain that there has always been a problem with having enough money and resources to fund administrative positions, temporary election workers, training for all staff and election workers, election equipment and ballot boxes, transportation costs for staff and equipment, public advertising, and the printing of election ballots.

In the 2018 primary and general elections, there were problems with not having enough official voting ballots at certain chapters thus denying some eligible Navajo voters their fair chance to cast their ballots.

I recall publishing past articles in the Navajo Times where the Navajo Nation Council secured ample funding for the NEA and the tribal elections but that took place at the last minute and the NEA had to scramble in order to get the election ballots properly printed and delivered to all of the chapters and voting outlets.

If tribal election history has taught us anything over the past few decades, it is to expect the unexpected.

However, providing enough funding to run fair, timely and efficient tribal elections should never be an issue or problem. At least that should not happen in the future.

The staff and workers at the Navajo Election Administration’s offices are important and essential employees and they deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. The duties they perform can be stressful at times especially during election years where they have to deal with issues of purging the voters list, registering voters, disseminating public information and advertising, and then conducting the actual elections.

Hiring a new executive director at the NEA is a proper step in the right direction. That person is going to have his or her hands full when they step into their new post. Let’s hope that this new executive director has the leadership skills, experience and vision to lead the election administration in a proficient and professional manner.

When I asked Yazzie about the operating budget for the NEA, she said that was still in the discussion and planning stage with the speaker’s office.

Seth Damon is speaker of the Navajo Nation Council and he will be up for re-election in 2022 with all of the other current tribal council delegates. Now the NEA needs Damon’s help and I do not think that it will be a political conflict of interest if he made sure that the NEA receives the funding they absolutely need so that our tribal elections in 2022 are carried out fairly and smoothly. He would be just doing his job.

Now the big burning question is who is going to run for Navajo Nation president? Will current President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer run for re-election? If so, will they run as a team or will they separate and run against each other just like Nez did against former tribal President Russell Begaye in the 2018 primary election?

Here at the Navajo Times, we have had no communication or information on what Nez and Lizer plan to do in the upcoming tribal election. I have a strong feeling that they will run again as a team.

I’ve received a lot of messages primarily through social media from folks who have given me their possible list of presidential candidates. These are all unofficial, of course.
Among the most common listed names are Chris Deschene, Eugenia Charles-Newton, Amber Kanazbah Crotty, Buu Van Nygren and Tom Tso.

Also, Alton Joe Shepherd, Russell Begaye, Joe Shirley Jr. and Tom Chee.

Again, these are just names that have been mentioned by numerous citizens who are interested in the upcoming tribal election. These listed people are not official candidates, yet.

If you are someone who is certain that you plan to file as an official candidate for Navajo Nation president in the 2022 tribal election, then send me a message at: tarviso@navajotimes.com.
Remember that the Navajo Nation Council is also up for re-election in 2022 and that is another whole big discussion.


About The Author

Tommy Arviso Jr.

Tom Arviso, Jr., is the CEO and Publisher of Navajo Times Publishing Co., Inc.

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