Christopher Clark Deschene
FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO – Former Navajo Nati presidential candidate Christopher Clark Deschene was going to vote in Tuesday’s general election, but given what happened on Friday, he may not get that opportunity.
On Friday, Window Rock District Court Judge Carol Perry ruled in favor to cancel the election. Perry’s ruling grants an injunction for former Navajo Election Board of Supervisors, who wanted it postponed until after the election office holds a referendum on Navajo fluency.
Immediately following Perry’s decision, presidential candidate Joe Shirley, Jr., appealed to the Navajo Supreme Court in an effort to allow the election with Russell Begaye to go forward.
Also minutes after Perry’s ruling, Edison Wauneka, director of the Navajo Election Administration, said his office planned to go through with the election anyway, despite the fact that he could be held in contempt by Perry.
As it stands now, Wauneka said he is under orders from Perry to delay the election and from the Navajo Supreme Court to hold it so any way he goes, he stands to be in contempt of one court or the other so he says he will follow the supreme court order.
Perry’s ruling was a small victory for members of the Navajo Voter’s Rights Coalition, who gathered Friday at San Juan College in Farmington to hear Deschene speak about the ongoing election saga and get an update of what he’s been doing since being removed from the ballot.
“I was going to vote,” Deschene told members of the coalition, who shouted “Yeego Chris” and “We want Chris” numerous times throughout his address.
Deschene explained that he first protested the idea of voting but then thought about how he would not preserve his right to vote if he didn’t. On his ballot, Deschene stated that he would have left the presidential race blank, only voting for the election board position in Western Navajo Agency.
But, with the election for Tuesday still up in the air, he may still have some time to ponder that decision.
“Judge Perry ruled appropriately,” Deschene said. “She used the voice of reason.”
Speaking to coalition members’ efforts, the former presidential candidate thanked them for mobilizing. He credited their organizing for influencing the outcome of Perry’s decision.
“You can’t subvert the will of the people,” Deschene said to huge applause. “Can’t shut down our people.”
Deschene also warned coalition members not to be surprised by Navajo Nation Chief Justice Herb Yazzie overruling the lower court’s decision to allow the election to happen. He added that the burden of proof to overturn Perry’s decision is in the hands of the high court.
According to Rebecca Nave-Cling, a vocal member of the coalition, Shirley filed an appeal to Yazzie’s high court.
“Joe Shirley already filed an appeal,” Cling said, noting that she didn’t understand why he’s petitioning Perry’s decision, when he isn’t a party in the election sham case.
But according to Alray Nelson, the deputy campaign manager for Joe Shirley, Jr., and Dineh Benally, Nave-Cling is wrong.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.