(Update) Navajo Nation election continues – for now

The Navajo Board of Election Supervisors convened a special meeting in Window Rock on Monday, and spent most of the meeting in executive session to discuss the presidential election. At the end of the day, the Board voted to allow the election to continue while awaiting a legal opinion from Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie, due on Friday.

The Navajo Times reports, Navajo Election Board of Supervisors still has questions on Council bill, Court order:

DescheneThe board voted 8-0 on a motion that requests Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie to answer two questions: What are the legal ramifications of stopping the election, considering that early-voting is occurring for positions other than the presidency, and the procedures in the selection of a vice-president.

The board requested Tsosie to have this legal opinion that answers their questions by Friday, Oct. 31 at its next special meeting.

“To be fair to all candidates and voters, we need this information in the form of a legal opinion from the Attorney General,” said Navajo Board of Election Supervisor Tom White.

White read this prepared statement immediately after the board reconvened from being in executive session and also after supervisor Lenora Fulton expressed her thoughts on behalf of the board.

“The NBOES has a responsibility and obligation to ensure that all elections process is done in a fair and impartial manner, free of corruption, intimidation, and fraud,” Fulton said.

She added that over the last two weeks outside interests have attempted to disrupt and interfere with the election process that the board has been following – Title 11 of the Navajo Nation Code.

Fulton noted that the Navajo voters are the highest form of political authority and they are the one’s whose sovereignty is at stake in this Nov. 4 general election.

“The NBOES honors and respects their oath of office and will to the best of their ability preserve and defend the laws and government of the Navajo Nation and advance the interest of the Navajo people, having due regards for the ethical duties and responsibilities of the office,” Fulton said. “The NBOES continues to stand united in its position.”

Even though the Navajo Nation Supreme Court has ordered the election board and election supervisors to remove presidential candidate Christopher Clark Deschene from the general election ballot, he still remains on it.

And since that is the case, White said, “Election continues. It hasn’t stopped.”

Supervisor Norman Begay also stated that the election supervisors do not support Deschene or Joe Shirley, Jr., as falsely stated on social media sites.

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In an interview with the Navajo Times, Tsosie, who is providing legal counsel to the election board and administration, said that the legal advice he wrote is called an advisory memorandum.

It advises, he said, how the election office complies with the high court’s order and also considers the new bill Council passed last week that amends the qualification requirements of elected positions.

Asked if the election does indeed continue like White noted, Tsosie replied, saying, “For the time being, because they’re (board) not sure if an election can be interrupted.”

Tsosie added that the high court, in its Writ of Mandamus, didn’t put “a stay in the election” either.

The new law passed by Council is also known as the Amendments to the Navajo Nation Election Code of 201. It hasn’t been signed by President Ben Shelly, according to Deswood Tome, special advisor to Shelly.

Tome said Monday the president took the bill under advisement and has made no decision to sign it into law or veto it. The president has ten days from when the legislation is brought to his desk to ink the bill.

This decision did not sit well with the plaintiffs who won before the Navajo Supreme Court. Their lawyers filed a motion for contempt of Court. Order of Contempt filed in high court by Tsosie and Whitehorne attorneys against Deschene, election office:

While the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors stated Monday that the Nov. 4 general election continues on as is, they, along with presidential candidate Christopher Clark Deschene, have received an [motion] for contempt of court.

This is according to the motion that David R. Jordan, attorney for Dale Tsosie, and Justin Jones, legal counsel for Hank Whitehorne, filed Monday with the Navajo Nation Supreme Court.

“As of today’s date, Respondents have refused to comply,” they wrote in their motion for order of contempt of court. “The election is still scheduled for November 4, 2014 and Deschene is still on the ballot.”

The article goes on to describe relief requested that is far outside the scope of what an order of contempt of court can impose. The plaintiffs are overreaching with the relief requested in this motion. If the Court had wanted to stop the election, already in progress, until the parties complied with the Court’s order, the Court could have stayed the election. It did not.

A hearing on the motion for contempt is scheduled for Friday, October 31, when Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie is due to provide his legal memorandum to the Navajo Board of Election as well.

Because the Navajo Nation election affects voter turnout in Arizona’s general election, that must also be a consideration for the Court. Let me propose an alternative remedy: allow the election to proceed as planned on November 4 — I understand that some 8,000 or more early ballots have already been cast in the Navajo Nation election — and if the Court or Navajo Nation President Shelley decides that Christopher Deschene should not appear on the ballot, then void the November 4 Navajo Nation election results in just the contest for president and schedule a special election. But do not do anything that will negatively impact voter turnout in Arizona’s general election, or affect other races not at issue on the Navajo Nation ballot.

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