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Navajo Nation election officials refuse to delay upcoming vote

Chris Deschene and his running mate, Fannie Atcitty, campaign on the Navajo Nation. Photo from Facebook

Will voters of the Navajo Nation go to the polls next week to choose a new leader? The answer is complicated.

On October 23, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court said presidential candidate Chris Deschene must be removed from the ballot because he was disqualified for not being fluent in the Navajo language. The justices said a delay in the election was "unavoidable."

The supervisors for the Navajo Board of Election, however, have failed to remove Deschene. They also haven't said whether they will delay the vote.

The inaction prompted attorneys for two failed candidates to seek a contempt order that would force the board to take action. The request was filed yesterday with the Supreme Court, The Navajo Times reported.

The situation is complicated by the passage of a bill by the Navajo Nation Council last week. Bill 0298-14 states that language proficiency is an issue left to the voters.

Outgoing president Ben Shelly hasn't said whether he will sign the bill into law.

Deschene, meanwhile, continues his campaign. "I remain on the ballot," he said on Facebook last night. "You have the right to choose your own leader. Vote. Join me on the right side of history.

Russell Begaye, who came in third in the tribe's primary, will appear on the new ballots if Deschene is removed. Joe Shirley Jr., a former president who speaks Navajo fluently and who came in first, remains in the race.

Get the Story:
Order of Contempt filed in high court by Tsosie and Whitehorne attorneys against Deschene, election office (The Navajo Times10/27)
Navajo Election Board of Supervisors still has questions on Council bill, Court order (The Navajo Times10/27)
Navajo Board of Election Supervisors have more questions for the tribe's attorney general (The Farmington Daily Times 10/27)
Navajo officials mull election amid confusion (AP 10/24)

Navajo Nation Supreme Court Decision:
Tsosie v. Deschene (October 23, 2014)

Navajo Nation Supreme Court Order:
Tsosie v. Deschene (October 22, 2014)

Earlier Navajo Nation Supreme Court Order:
Tsosie v. Deschene (September 26, 2014)

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