NAVAJO PRESIDENT GETS TOUGH ON HOLDING LAWMAKERS ACCOUNTABLE

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PRESIDENT BEGAYE SIGNS RECALL PETITION BILL TO ALLOW VOTERS TO HOLD ELECTED OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE

WINDOW ROCK—President Russell Begaye on Wednesday lowered barriers for recalling elected officials when he signed a bill that makes it easier for voters to remove individuals from office.

Legislation No. 0239-18 amends the Navajo Election Code by reducing the number of signatures required on recall petitions from 60 percent to 45 percent of voters who participated in the election. Under the new law, if 45 percent of voters sign a recall petition, ballots are prepared and a special election is conducted.

The bill, approved by the Navajo Nation Council on Nov. 20, allows voters to hold their elected officials accountable, President Begaye said. By lowering the threshold, the law also more closely aligns Navajo laws with those of surrounding states.

In New Mexico, recall petitions must be signed by 33.3 percent of voters. Arizona requires signatures from 25 percent of voters.

“This bill doesn’t guarantee officials will be recalled, but it makes it possible for voters to seek recourse,” President Begaye said. “My administration has tackled many tough issues and streamlined processes to get projects done much more quickly than before. One issue that still needed work was the recall of officials who are stealing money, violating Navajo laws or not serving the people like they should. This is all about accountability.”

President Begaye noted that the amended law still requires a higher percentage of voter signatures than surrounding states. He hopes future measures will lower the requirement even more.
“I agree wholeheartedly with changing the election law to make this process more accessible,” he 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.”