- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - Officials on the Navajo Nation say the tribe’s high court overstepped its authority in directing the tribal controller to fund a belated presidential election.

Meanwhile, early voting for the top officials on the country’s largest American Indian reservation is underway, and election officials have no plans to halt it. The election featuring Joe Shirley Jr. and Russell Begaye is scheduled for April 21.

The Navajo Nation Supreme Court granted a motion last month to enforce an order to hold the election without further delay. It also ordered the tribal controller to transfer $317,000 to the election office to cover the cost of the general election.

The election originally was set for Nov. 4, but it was pushed back as challenges to some candidates’ qualifications made their way through court and lawmakers attempted to switch up election law.

In court documents filed recently, the chief legislative counsel said he should have been given an opportunity to respond to the latest motion to enforce the presidential contest and asked the court to reconsider. Navajo President Ben Shelly’s office is seeking to intervene in the case, saying that transferring money to the elections office without approval from lawmakers is illegal.

The high court has not ruled on those requests or a separate one from the tribe’s Department of Justice to clarify how identified funds might be transferred consistent with Navajo law.

Judicial spokeswoman Karen Francis wrote in an email Wednesday that the parties will be given an opportunity to respond to the pleadings before the court rules. She said the court’s decision on the merits of the election dispute is final.

A measure approved by the Tribal Council and Shelly earlier this year gave priority for funding to a referendum on language requirements for the president and vice president over the general election.

In a joint statement Tuesday, Shelly and Tribal Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates maintained that the referendum would occur before the presidential contest. But the election office said it is moving forward with its own operating funds to hold the presidential election, even if depletes the office’s funding.

Early voting began March 26. More than 116,000 Navajos are registered to vote.

The election office said the referendum vote would take place later this spring.

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