By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
Tribal Council had a work session on Monday, July 23 with the EBCI Attorney General and EBCI Election Board regarding proposed changes to the Cherokee Code. Interim Attorney General Michael McConnell referenced Ordinance 173-2018 Section 161-3 regarding qualifications for office, starting with how to determine someone’s residence.
Subsection G, new paragraph, includes the language that the candidate must live on trust land and must reside on it at least most of the time. “Reside” will be defined as “overnights” at the residence.
Denise Ballard, Chairwoman of the Election Board, concurred with Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke that her opinion is that any candidate should live on the Boundary “100 percent of the time” during the discussion.
McConnell said that disclosure of a second home in another location would need to be reported as part of filing. Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Bucky Brown asked if there was any verification process or were the candidates just taken at their word. McConnell stated that there is currently no investigator on staff with the Election Board, and it would be up to the members of the Election Board to research any questionable report.
In Subsection D, the Election Board proposed to add language to the campaign finance reporting requirements. In Subsection G they recommend adding reminders for financial reporting of candidates and elected officials. Monthly reporting during the campaign and a final report would be required. Failure to report by a deadline would result in disqualification as a candidate for office.
McConnell presented the idea of giving the Election Board the option to consider “excuses” for late reporting. The changes also recommend detailed campaign contributions information, including name of the contributor, amount, and date of contribution. It is also proposed that a candidate may “loan” his or her campaign personal funds and reimburse themselves if there is money left over in the campaign fund at the end of the campaign. There would also be an option of paying back donors or giving to charity with the unused portion of the campaign fund. McConnell said that he removed a proposed provision that would transfer any leftover campaign funds to the Election Board, because some found it objectionable. He did not specify who found it objectionable. There was some discussion of a $250 per donor or contribution “cap” that would need some “tightening up” to prevent side-stepping of the ordinance.
McConnell also discussed language that would reinforce existing Code that states campaign contributions may not be accepted that violate existing law, and candidates may not make promises of personal gain to someone who makes contributions for a specified, personal purpose, or trading political favors for contributions to a campaign.
The Tribal Council discussed the 2 percent rule for recounts, recommending a clarification of the language.
Language specific to run-off elections was read for consideration. “A run-off election is defined to mean any election held subsequent to the election at issue for which the run-off election is held to resolve a tie between two candidates, or is held because the Board of Elections has determined In response to a timely filed protest and after conducting research and investigation, that irregularities in the conduct of the election rendered the results contrary to tribal law and/or unreliable.”
Proposed language to be added to the Code includes a clarification of the process for filling vacancies in the Vice Chief seat. The proposal states that if the Vice Chief seat is vacated for any reason, “Council shall elect a successor from the current Tribal Council representatives, no later than the next regularly scheduled Tribal Council session after the vacancy occurs”.
Ballard said that the fastest that a special election would be mounted and executed would be 90 days and that there was some concern that leaving the Executive Committee in a non-functioning state would not be good for governance.
Tribal Council Chairman Adam Wachacha said that there would be more discussions on proposed changes to the election laws would happen as the community considered these changes and how they might relate to a tribal constitution, which is also under consideration. He stated that he would like to meet to work on these changes approximately every two weeks until they are ready for Tribal Council consideration for approval.
The official video record of this meeting is available online at www.ebci.com.