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Election focuses on Navajo language fluency requirement

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Navajos are voting Tuesday in a rare referendum that
could loosen the requirement for presidential hopefuls to speak the tribe’s
language.

Candidates for president and vice president must understand Navajo and speak it
fluently. It’s a requirement that can be enforced by tribal courts.

A “yes” vote on the referendum lets individual Navajos decide if those
candidates speak and understand Navajo well enough to hold office, starting with
the 2018 election.

Lawmakers approved the vote after changes to the fluency requirement failed
through other legislation.

A candidate in the most recent presidential election
had been disqualified for failing to prove he met the requirement.

More than 122,000 Navajos are registered to vote Tuesday. Tribal members have
voted on a handful of referendums in the past.