10/17/2012 11:08:00 AM Letter: Is hand count voting appropriate and accurate?
To the editor:
I am writing this letter about the confusion that happened Oct. 3 at the Gap/Bodaway Chapter House meeting. Albert Hale, the state representative, and his Confluence Partners are celebrating and behaving as if this narrow victory is a green light to start the development.
The vote was 59 to rescind all resolutions against the development known as the Escalade and 52 to keep them intact. The opposition disagree with the count claiming that the Vice President, President and Secretary/Treasurer are biased.
How does one accurately count a room packed with voters with their hands up? A person can raise both hands and be counted. One opponent said that the VP counted her side twice and declined to re-count the other side. Another person said that the VP even went outside the Chapter House to include the people out there in her tally. And there is speculation that she did not count eligible voters that she did not recognize.
This hand counting method is wide spread among all of the 110 Navajo Chapters. I don't think there are any plans to re-vamp the vote count that would eliminate bias and corruption. The opposition has filed complaints with the Navajo Ethics and Rules Office. When that office will consider the list of discrepancies and whether they will take any action is any one's guess.
Another office that should seriously investigate this chaos is the Elections Office. When I talk to people about this, they say "that is the Navajo Nation for you." So what does this vote mean if it is legitimate? It is an unjust way of operating a recognized government entity and that spells poor public relations and lack of integrity, which means that rules of order don't exist or Chapter officials just ignore them.
Three times, members of this Chapter voted against this project. It goes back to the late 1990's and as recently as July. All this seven-vote difference means is that the community is split down the middle, which does not give the Partners and President Shelley any mandate. The Partners are desperate and in over drive as the 2012 New Year's Eve deadline becomes more and more of a threat than celebrating the outcome of this vote. They have the resources to spend money on full page newspaper ads, free means for people who attend their gathering, and employ people to gather petition signatures across the Western portion of the Navajo Nation.
The only sad outcome is that neighbors who were neighbors are arguing with each other and it is going to take a long time before the community gets back together. The people in this area survived 40 plus years of the federal opposed Bennett Freeze. Since the Freeze was lifted in 2009, the people who hold grazing permits and those who finally acquired home site leases are now being asked to agree with the Escalade development by giving up their rights. This means losing 420 acres of land that includes sacred sites where the people pray, give offering, and ask for harmony from the holy people. This is what defines us as the Navajo people in the eyes of the state, national, and international domains.
The Dine'(People) of the Confluence, the Hopi Nation, the Grand Canyon Trust, Navajo Medicine Men Association, and many other tribal and national organizations are against this $200 million project. Are the Partners expecting the Navajo Nation to pony up the dollars? There is $1.2 billion in the tribe's Permanent Trust Funds. And about $20 million of the Bennett Freeze money, initially geared to rehabilitate areas like Gap/Bodaway, now being used to build the Twin Arrows Casino. Who will prevail in this controversy is none other than the people who have been stepped on, stepped over, and so on. Thank you,