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Navajo voters to decide language fluency in Tuesday’s referendum

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation voters will cast ballots Tuesday to determine the outcome of a referendum that could amend the language fluency requirement for the tribe’s president and vice president.

All 110 chapter precincts will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The referendum asks voters whether or not to amend the language qualifications for the president and vice president so a candidate’s ability to speak and understand Navajo and English would be determined by voters when they cast ballots.

Current tribal law mandates the president and vice president “must fluently” speak and understand Navajo and read and write English.

Last month, the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors passed a resolution that clarified the votes needed to pass the referendum.

The election board’s resolution stated the referendum would pass if a majority of eligible registered voters who vote in Tuesday’s election cast their ballots in favor of the measure.

Results of the election will be reported to the Navajo Election Administration after polls close at 7 p.m.

The Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Ariz., will serve as election headquarters on Tuesday evening.

Early walk-in voting ended at 5 p.m. Friday at the election administration’s agency offices in Shiprock and Crownpoint and in Chinle, Tuba City and Window Rock in Arizona.

The issue of a candidate’s ability to speak the Navajo language was pushed to the forefront during the recent election for president.

At the time, former presidential candidate Chris Deschene was disqualified by a default judgment after he refused to take a test to determine his ability to speak Navajo fluently.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.

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