Alcohol referendum defeated, voter turnout low

by Jun 1, 2018Front Page, NEWS ka-no-he-da





Just over 25 percent (25.56%) of the registered voters of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians turned out to vote in the alcohol referendum on Thursday, May 31.  The referendum, which asked the question of whether or not the Tribe should operate its own ABC package store, failed with 912 voting against and 821 for.

The question voted on came about through Res. No. 119 (2018) which was submitted by Painttown Lisa Taylor.  Thursday’s question, as presented in a floor amendment to Res. No. 119 by Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose, was as follows: “To allow ABC permits to be issued to allow retail sales of alcoholic beverages on tribal trust land at a tribal-owned package store/ABC store”.

Following is a breakdown of Thursday’s voting by community precinct:

  • Big Cove: 74 for, 119 against
  • Big Y: 60 for, 59 against
  • Wolftown: 160 for, 189 against
  • Birdtown: 247 for, 212 against
  • Cherokee Co.: 11 for, 20 against
  • Snowbird: 37 for, 66 against
  • Painttown: 117 for, 118 against
  • Yellowhill: 115 for, 129 against

But, it was a moot point anyways as the percentage of tribal voters participating did not meet the 30 percent required by Cherokee Code Section 161-9(c)(4).

“We had a very low voter turnout,” Denise Ballard, EBCI Election Board chairperson, said on Thursday night.  “It was not the 30 percent that was required for the vote.”

Overall, a total of 1,733 votes were cast out of 6,779 registered voters.  Following is a breakdown, by community precinct, of total registered voters, votes cast, and voter turnout percentage:

  • Big Cove: 781 registered, 193 votes, 24.71 percent
  • Big Y: 403 registered, 119 votes, 29.53 percent
  • Wolftown: 1,160 registered, 349 votes, 30.09 percent
  • Birdtown: 1,760 registered, 459 votes, 26.08 percent
  • Cherokee Co.: 432 registered, 31 votes, 7.18 percent
  • Snowbird: 497 registered, 103 votes, 20.72 percent
  • Painttown: 826 registered, 235 votes, 28.45 percent
  • Yellowhill: 920 registered, 244 votes, 26.52 percent

On the low voter turnout, Ballard said, “People knew that if they did not go and vote that it would not pass as it would not hit the 30 percent…people were surprised that younger people didn’t turn out.  I kept hearing that from poll workers.”

Counting of ballots for the referendum was done by hand, and Ballard was pleased with the way the system worked.  “Everything was very smooth.”

Hand counts were completed by the poll workers at each precinct, and Election Board officials recounted the ballots afterwards in their office at the Ginger Lynn Welch Complex.

She noted that the referendum itself cost around $15,000.  “That’s low compared to what we would have for a regular election because we didn’t have to have all of the electronic equipment.”

According to Cherokee Code Sec. 161-9(c)(10), “An issue that has been brought up before the eligible voters and voted upon by referendum/iniative may not be voted upon again until a period of two years has passed.”

To read more about this issue and how the referendum came about, visit: