Proposed Navajo Nation Council legislation to over-ride Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly’s veto of the Council’s amendments to the tribal election law regarding the Navajo language fluency qualification to be a presidential candidate goes before the Council’s top committee today, Nov. 12.
The proposed over-ride legislation is 0309-14, which is titled “An Action Relating To Naabik’iyati’ Committee And Navajo Nation Council; Overriding The Navajo Nation President’s Veto Of Navajo Nation Council Resolution CO-47-14.”
And under the Council’s rules, legislation 0309-14 will head to the Council during their special session on Nov. 13 and 14, 2014, even if the Naabik’iyati Committee opposes it today. But when 0309-14 gets to the Council, the Council has to vote to add it to its proposed special session two-day AGENDAagenda.
The Council’s two-day special session, which will be held at the Council chambers in Window Rock, Ariz., is to finish up the 19 pieces of legislation that they did not act on during their five-day Fall session from Oct. 27 to 31, 2014.
According to the Council’s announcement about their two-day special session, which involved a memo and petition, their proposed agenda did not include Legislation 0309-14.
The Office of the Speaker recently announced that it received requests for a “clarification” of the proposed special session agenda, especially after a simple majority of the Council delegates, which is 13, failed to sign a previous petition for a special Council session on Nov. 3 to address 0309-14.
During the five hours of heated debate on the amendments to the election code, which also would be retroactive to when an individual filed to be a candidate for the 2014 elections, several delegates accused Delegate Danny Simpson of sponsoring the proposed amendments to the election law for one presidential candidate, Chris Deschene, who had been disqualified as a presidential candidate by the Navajo Nation Office of Hearings and Appeals under a default judgement that found that Deschene lied on his affidavit to be a qualified presidential candidate, when he claimed that he spoke the Navajo language fluently.
And during a Navajo Nation Supreme Court hearing on a contempt of court charge against the Navajo Election Board and Navajo Election Office, Deschene’s attorney told the Supreme Court that Deschene accepted the OHA’s decision that he was disqualified.
Deschene’s statement of guilt is included in the SUPREME COURT DECISION on the contempt of court order against the Navajo Election Board.
Shelly stated in his OCT. 28 VETO MESSAGE of the Council’s amendments to the election code, “We are a nation of laws, and I took an oath to uphold those laws. The Navajo Nation Supreme Court has said that “Navajo culture is forward looking and it is never preferable to unwind events that have already occurred…This legislation is only intended to help one candidate who has been disqualified.”
According to a COUNCIL PRESS RELEASE, if Shelly signed the election law amendments into law, the amendments would have amended candidate qualifications for the positions of president, vice president, council delegates, chapter officers, land board members, farm board members, district grazing committee members, and school board members.
The amended language states, “Language proficiency shall be determined by the People voting in favor of the person upon the right and freedom of the Diné to choose their leaders.”
Simpson, who represents the Navajo communities of Becenti, Crownpoint, Huerfano, Lake Valley, Nageezi, Nahodishgish, Tse’ii’ahi, and Whiterock, had urged the Council to approve the amendments to “let the people decide” if candidates are proficient enough in the Navajo language.
According to the unofficial results of the Navajo Nation Nov. 4 General Election, Simpson lost his delegate position to Jonathan Perry.
During the Council’s heated debate on the proposed election law amendments, Council Delegate Katherine Benally, who represents Chilchinbeto, Dennehotso, and Kayenta, repeatedly opposed the amendments and emphasized the need for the Council to uphold the current Navajo language requirements and to strike proposed language in the legislation that would apply the proposed changes retroactively.
Several delegates argued that the Council should not change language requirements in the midst of an election, Delegate Leonard Tsosie, who represents Baca/Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Counselor, Littlewater, Ojo Encino, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon, and Whitehorse Lake, argued that the legislation was necessary to avoid disenfranchising voters who have already submitted their ballots, particularly those who voted for presidential candidate Chris Deschene.
Delegate Tsosie said he disagreed with the Navajo Nation Supreme Court’s decision, which ordered the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors and the Navajo Election Administration to remove Deschene from the Nov. 4 ballot.
“It is the prerogative and the authority of this council to remedy a situation on the disenfranchisement of Navajo voters,” stated Delegate Tsosie. “The disenfranchisement happened when the Navajo Supreme Court ruled the way it did.”
Speaker Pro Temp LoRenzo Bates, who represents Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, Tse’Daa’Kaan, and Upper Fruitland, cast the deciding vote in support of the legislation, citing fundamental law and the peoples’ right to choose their leaders.