By JOSEPH MARTIN
ONE FEATHER STAFF
With 25 days left before Tribal Council can adopt changes to the Tribe’s election laws, Tribal Council voted to retable a proposed ordinance Dec. 6 with changes and amendments. With an ordinance passed in September, changes can be made to election laws until Dec. 31. The election year is now defined as Jan. 1 – Sept. 30 that a general election takes place.
Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe said he’d like to have more public input after hearing comments from his community. “They agree with some of the changes that’s in the election ordinance, but they would like to come out and be able to have some input also.”
The proposed changes address ineligibility for office, particularly for those who’ve been impeached and removed from office. It also addresses the certification process, conducting recounts and runoffs, handling the filling of vacancies of offices, petitioning for referendums, early voting procedures, protests and irregularities, unlawful campaign activities and securing ballots and the Board of Elections’ offices.
Election Board Chairperson Denise Ballard said that there has been plenty of time since Tribal Council started addressing the issue in April. “This is the last time council will meet to make these changes before the election year starts.”
Big Cove Rep. Perry Shell said he’d be willing to come in to work on it during times that the tribe has off for the holidays. “How many times have we met on this election ordinance? I think it still needs more work,” he said. “We can do our job and come in here and work. Whatever hours it takes to do that. Let’s do this.”
When Vice Chairperson David Wolfe asked Principal Chief Richard Sneed for a special called council session he said, “Absolutely, there are members of the community that want to have time to comment, but they can’t come down here during the work day. That’s absolutely fine.”
Chairman Adam Wachacha said that amendments will be carried over for discussion at that meeting. “I hope the election board will be looking at the same amendments to determine what will be policy.”
Before the Nov. 13 work session, Acting Attorney General Michael McConnell said, “The request for changes grew out of questions and concerns raised in the last election cycle.”
The proposed law comes after a contentious Tribal Council election in 2017 in Birdtown. That election saw early voting with an insufficient number of ballots purchased in that community. It also saw initial results that put Birdtown’s top two vote getters as Boyd Owle and Albert Rose. Ashley Sessions, however, was 12 votes behind Rose in third place. Sessions asked for and received a recount, which got her 29 more votes. Rose received 12 more votes in the recount, but Sessions’ gains put her in second place.
Rose protested claiming that the irregularities unfairly and illegally impacted the outcome. After the board, made up of Chairperson Denise Ballard, Roger Smoker, Annie Owens, Shirley Reagan, Pam Straughan and Margaret French (who signed “disagree” on the decision), reviewed the issue and set a runoff election between Sessions and Rose. Rose prevailed in the runoff.
It was also an election where an investigation determined that voter fraud may have occurred, as early and undervote ballots were tampered with between the general election and the runoff. The tribe is offering a $25,000 reward for information.