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Navajo Council still debating Referendum disguised as Navajo language fluency but if approved, disqualified presidential candidate Deschene would be qualified
March 13, 2015 News Articles

Based on the Navajo Council agenda, the Council is now on Legislation 0010-15: An Action Relating To Budget And Finance, Naa’bik’iyati’ And The Navajo Nation Council; Approving Supplemental Funding From The Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance In The Amount Of $317,891 For The Navajo Nation Election Administration, Business Unit #101021, To Fund The Continuing 2014 Navajo Nation General Election.

MOTION BY DELEGATES LEONARD TSOSIE AND BEN BENNETT TO SUSPEND COUNCIL FLOOR AND ALLOW MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES FOR EACH DELEGATE TO DEBATE.
VOTE IS 9 IN FAVOR, 11 OPPOSED

MOTION BY DELEGATES LEONARD TSOSIE AND NATE BROWN FOR AMENDMENT:
1. ON PAGE 1, LINE 15, STRIKE THE WORD “GENERAL” AND PLURALIZE THE WORD “ELECTION”; 2. ON PAGE 2, LINE 3, INSERT A NEW PARAGRAPH AS FOLLOWS: g. THERE BEING SO MANY NAVAJO VOTERS WHO ARE CLAIMING THE DISENFRANCHISEMENT OF THEIR VOTES AS A RESULT OF NAVAJO SUPREME COURT DECISION AND THE PRESIDENT REQUESTING THAT THE QUESTION OF “FLUENCY OF NAVAJO LANGUAGE” REQUIREMENT BE RESOLVED BY THE NAVAJO PEOPLE, IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE THE NAVAJO PEOPLE DECIDE WHETHER TO AMEND 11 N.N.C. SECTION 8, A, 4 AS FOLLOWS: SECIION 8. QUALIFICATIONS FOR OFFICE. A. QUALIFICATIONS FOR PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT ARE: 4. MUST BE ABLE TO SPEAK AND UNDERSTAND THE NAVAJO AND ENGLISH LANGUAGE; AND THIS ABILITY SHALL BE DETERMINED BY THE NAVAJO VOTER WHEN HE/SHE CASTS A BALLOT. 4. ON PAGE 2, LINE 18, INSERT A NEW PARAGRAPH AS FOLLOWS: AFTER THE CERTIFICATION OF THE REFERENDUM VOTE BY NAVAJO ELECTION ADMINISTRATION, THE SPEAKER SHALL CALL A SPECIAL SESSION TO ADDRESS THE GENERAL ELECTION FOR NAVAJO NATION OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT. 5. RENUBMER OR RELETTER SUCCEEDING PARAGRAPHS OR SECTIONS ACCORDINGLY, IF NECESSARY; AND THIS AMENDMENT SHALL SUPERSEDE INCONSISTENT LANGUAGE CONTAINED IN ANY OTHER COMMITTEE AMENDMENT, WHICH SHALL BE CONFORMED TO THE INTENT OR LANGUAGE OF THIS AMEMDMENT.

SPEAKER LORENZO BATES RULES DELEGATES LEONARD TSOSIE AND NATE BROWN AMENDMENT OUT OF ORDER.

DELEGATES LEONARD TSOSIE AND EDMUND YAZZIE CHALLENGE SPEAKER’S DECISION.

AFTER MUCH DEBATE, THE COUNCIL VOTES 12 IN FAVOR, 8 IN FAVOR TO OVERRULE SPEAKER’S RULING.

COUNCIL CONTINUES DEBATE ON DELEGATES L.TSOSIE AND N.BROWN AMENDMENT TO FUND REFERENDUM REGARDING NAVAJO LANGUAGE FLUENCY, WHICH IS BASICALLY THE SAME LANGUAGE THAT DELEGATE L.TSOSIE PROPOSED FOR DISQUALIFIED CANDIDATE CHRIS DESCHENE TO BE ON PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT BECAUSE IT ALLOWS “NAVAJO VOTERS TO DECIDE IF A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IS QUALIFIED” WHICH IS THE SAME LANGUAGE THAT DESCHENE USED WHEN HIS AFFIDAVIT WAS LEGALLY CHALLENGED REGARDING HIS CLAIM THAT HE SPOKE THE NAVAJO LANGUAGE FLUENTLY.

DELEGATE NELSON BEGAYE
i agree with Delegate Ben Bennett about all this news about special presidential election and there is no funding. Regarding amendment, there is call for council special session. what does that mean?

DELEGATE LEONARD TSOSIE
if you read Item 4, whether people vote Yes or No, we need session. if people vote to change law then there is new law. it’s similar to constitutional amendment. if change law then we have to abide by new law.

DELEGATE SLIM
on this legislation, its asking for funding for special presidential election. the amendment is to fund referendum. the people in western agency have concerns about Navajo language fluency which has been ongoing issue by former council so why bring here again. the western agency opposes funding of election.

DELEGATE TOM CHEE
we are obligated to fund these elections. which is the people’s right to vote. we erroneously classified our Navajo speakers are uneducated. Shiprock chapter voters should have let me know how fun and challenging Navajo politics was. i was thinking that we need to refer Navajo language fluency requirement back to the people. i believe we have right to fund election.

DELEGATE DWIGHT WITHERSPOON
i have concern about amendment but it needs to be done right. Election Office Director Wauneka will once again be caught between two branches. And the amendment changes the intent of my legislation.

DELEGATE NATE BROWN
since december 2014, we have been dealing with this. and i have been hearing, why not fix it. and council tried and it was vetoed twice by president. and now it is on us again. when are we going to fix it. our constituents out they are using a lot of gas and food to come to council, from all four directions, and it’s getting more expensive for them. we have to take these people into consideration. they don’t have P-cards.

DELEGATE LEONARD TSOSIE
it’s irresponsible of Election Office to advertise special presidential election when there is no money. there should be funding first. i don’t know who made the decision. Election Office said they would need $100,000 to print ballots in-house and so there will be a balance from the $1.2 million.

DELEGATE LEONARD PETE
one is precedence, what has happened since last Fall and what will take place until election takes place. We will set precedence when they come across similar case. it’s going to be like law written in concrete. you can lecture all you want but kids will follow in footsteps. this action by council today regarding amendment involves Navajo language, our parents and it’s taught at young age with cultural respect. but if you learn Dine’ by reading books and though audio, you will not learn meaning, respect that is handed down by elders, relatives.

DELEGATE EDMUND YAZZIE
just hearing all facts, council has tried to work on whole election deal and so has Chief Justice, President, Vice President, attorneys making big bucks. but this amendment will allow people at chapter their input. give them change to correct this problem that Council, Chief Justice, President, Vice President tried to resolve. Let’s give People chance!

PEOPLE IN GALLERY APPLAUD LOUDLY.

SPEAKER BATES
didn’t i warn this body. another outburst, and i’ll clear gallarey.

DELEGATE EDMUND YAZZIE
it’s freedom of speech

NOTE: WHEN PEOPLE HAD SIMILAR OUTBURST DURING COUNCIL’S DEBATE ON WATER RIGHTS, COAL, URANIUM, THEY WERE NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE OUTBURSTS.

DELEGATE WALTER PHELPS
we are just rolling our votes upstream. we also have to keep in mind that president has veto power. if not vetoed then Supreme Court could challenge use because of its prior rulings on special presidential election. we need ot ask our legal counsel for some guidance. i do support referendum and it should be separate legislation.if this legislation is approved with amendment and president signs and moves forward, we keep in mind that Supreme Court ruled that Joe Shirley Jr. and Russell Begaye would be in presidential election. Let us say, referendum is approved, what kind of questions are we looking at legally. is it opening door for more candidates beside what Supreme Court ordered?

DELEGATE LEE JACK
I represent southwest region chapters and they continuously discuss election. Some oppose election. others want election. others want disenfranchised voters addressed. so it is a difficult for our navajo people. and over the years, as you listen to council debate, we must remember council not perfect. and the council decisions have been challenged. but council also provide adequate funding for election. and if council does not provide funding for election then that could be challenged in court. maybe we should do referendum in separate legislation. i think this legislation if for funding for general election for president. I ask Election Office Director Wauneka if ballots printed for election.

ELECTION DIRECTOR WAUNEKA
ballots printed on Monday and available for absentee voting.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HARRISON TSOSIE
what wud be effect of referendum if passed considering Supreme Court opinions and what I discussed with Delegate Phelps is this is legal question that i cannot answer in open session since people have their own opinion.

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