FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation officials have changed an aspect of the process for registered voters to recall elected officials under the tribe's election laws.
President Russell Begaye signed on Nov. 28 a tribal council resolution to lower the number of signatures needed on recall petitions from 60 percent to 45 percent of votes cast in the preceding election for the position.
The bill cleared the Navajo Nation Council in a vote of 14 in favor and 3 opposed in a special session on Nov. 20.
This change allows voters to hold their elected officials accountable, Begaye said in a press release from his office.
"This bill doesn't guarantee officials will be recalled, but it makes it possible for voters to seek recourse," Begaye said.
Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd sponsored the bill and said Monday he appreciated the president's action.
Shepherd said from his point of view, it did not seem right for a person to be elected to office by carrying 51 percent of votes cast while the process to recall was set at 60 percent.
It was so high it did not benefit the people, he said.
Begaye also stated in the release that while the resolution decreased the percentage, the number is still higher than those in New Mexico and Arizona to recall officials.
The president and the tribal council resolution both noted that recall petitions for county officials in New Mexico must be signed by 33.3 percent of voters while it is 25 percent in Arizona.
"I agree wholeheartedly with changing the election law to make this process more accessible," Begaye said. "This is a start. People put their trust and hope in their elected officials. When those individuals are mismanaging funds, neglecting their duties or abusing their positions, there has to be a way to hold them accountable."
When the bill was introduced in July, it proposed to set the new requirement at 30 percent, but the amount was amended to 45 percent by the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee in October.
The legislation received support from the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors, which recommended setting it at 35 percent.
The election board also recommended that petition groups pay the costs for conducting recall elections.
Neither the council nor the president addressed the election board's recommendation about costs.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.