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Judge dismisses suit over Navajo primary

The plaintiff didn't follow provisions in tribal law to sue the Navajo Nation, a tribal judge says

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — A Navajo Nation judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to force a primary election for tribal officials that was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Elouise Brown filed the lawsuit in August, claiming the voting rights of Navajos were violated when tribal lawmakers overturned a presidential veto of legislation that canceled the tribe's primary election.

Window Rock Judicial District Judge Malcolm Begay dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying that Brown did not follow provisions in tribal law to sue the Navajo Nation and, therefore, the court did not have jurisdiction, The Daily Times reported.

"Insofar as the right to an election, it is the plaintiff who is attempting to take that right away from the Navajo people by cancelling the general election," Begay wrote in his order.

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The decision came less than a week after the tribe filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Brown alleged in the complaint that tribal officials don't have the authority to alter election dates. She said that power is reserved for the Navajo people.

The lawsuit sought to postpone Tuesday's general election until a primary election could be held, and to extend the time for people to file for elected offices, such as school boards and community leadership positions.

The Navajo Nation Council approved legislation to cancel the tribe's Aug. 4 primary that's typically held in line with the Arizona primary election. Tribal President Jonathan Nez vetoed the measure. Tribal lawmakers overturned the veto, sending all candidates to the general election ballot for the races to be decided by plurality vote.

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