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Elections office seeks money for outdated computers, staff needs

WINDOW ROCK

During the Budget and Finance Committee’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Delegate Wilson Stewart Jr. and election office Director Rosita Kelly introduced legislation (No. 0051-22) requesting $3 million for the Navajo Election Administration.

During spring session, $3 million was also requested by the election office. However, the legislation (No. 0050-22) was referred back to the Naabik’iyati’ Committee for further discussion.

Kelly said the biggest challenge the election office is facing, funding wise, and as of right now, is a new database because it is ready to crash.

The database also will no longer connect to their computers due to age. Due to this, the office is not able to print reports and must resort to printing reports elsewhere.

She added the phone system is also a challenge. When they call into Zoom, the audience is unable to hear them and they cannot transfer calls to other people in their department.

Most of the problems faced by the elections office revolve around technology, Kelly said.

“And then our printers, they’re old and sometimes we have to fiddle with them just to get them going,” Kelly said. “Scanners, the same way, and our Xerox copier. I mean all these are technological challenges that we have, that’s the biggest thing.”

The computers currently being used are from the early 2000s and Kelly said if a new database is purchased, these computers will not be compatible with it and new computer software will also be needed.

If the funding is approved, it will not only go toward technology related problems, but also towards temporary employees, overtime pay and traveling fees.

“Our staff, they need assistance at the agency offices especially for this upcoming election, they have requested temporary assistance for during election and in preparation for the election from July to the first week in August,” Kelly said.

“They’re trying to request assistance for money so we can employ temporary people so we can help the agency staff,” she said, “then also here at the central office.”

She said the overtime will be for the voter registration specialists and the temporary employees due to the agency offices needing to stay open past regular hours on election day.

“All of the agency offices have to remain open at the end of an election day,” Kelly said. “Some of them have to wait until two o’clock in the morning for the chapters to return their voting machines and then also the ballots and that’s for security purposes.”

“NEA (Navajo Elections Administration) prides itself on conducting fair elections,” she said.

She said the overtime will be for approximately 150 hours based on previous elections.

Travel costs are also included in the amount requested. Kelly said the voter registration specialists must travel to metropolitan areas to train new registrars.

“We need our registrars to be traveling there (Indian centers in metropolitan areas),” Kelly said. “We did try Zoom training but according to the VRS’s it’s better to do the in-person training so we need to have funds for them to travel to these areas.”

The legislation was voted to move onto the Naabik’iyati’ Committee, 5-0.


About The Author

Hannah John

Hannah John is from Coyote Canyon, N.M., and currently based out of Gallup as a reporter for the Navajo Times. She is Bit’ah’nii (Within His Cover), born for Honágháahnii (One Who Walks Around), maternal grandfather is Tábaahí (Water Edge) and paternal grandfather is Tódich’ii’nii (Bitter Water). She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor’s in communications and a minor in Native American studies. She recently worked with the Daily Lobo and the Rio Grande Sun.

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