During the Election Commission meeting on Sept. 13, Election Commissioner Martha Calico, right, holds up documentation of the final locations of precincts for the upcoming principal chief election to other EC commissioners. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

CNEC to wait 48 hours to certify election results

The Cherokee Nation Election Commission gathered for their regular meeting on Sept. 13. In that meeting the commission selected a new chairperson and approved waiting 48 hours before certifying election results. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission gathered for their regular meeting on Sept. 13. In that meeting the commission selected a new chairperson and approved waiting 48 hours before certifying election results. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
09/14/2011 11:18 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Election Commission approved a motion at its Sept. 13 meeting that calls for the EC to wait 48 hours before certifying unofficial election results after ballot counting has ceased.

EC Commissioner Susan Plumb said she believes not only does the EC need additional ballot counters, but also a break between unofficial results and certified results.

“The goal is to have a result that would withstand any scrutiny,” Plumb said. “We can’t do super human work…we can come back in 24 hours and begin to canvass and certify and that’s not unusual. I don’t find anywhere that there’s an immediate certification requirement in any other election codes.”

The EC also approved entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Carter Center, which will observe the Sept. 24 election.

The Carter Center will deploy a small observation mission for the Sept. 24 special election for principal chief, according to a Sept. 14 news release from the center.

Carter Center observers will interview the election commission, political contestants, and others to assess the electoral process. In addition, the Center will observe early voting, as well as election day polling, counting, and tabulation processes.

“The June election for Cherokee Nation Principal Chief and its aftermath created uncertainty about the process,” said Avery Davis-Roberts, assistant director of the Carter Center’s Democracy Program. “The Carter Center hopes that our mission to observe the September special election will reassure Cherokee voters, and will help to strengthen the efforts of the election commission, Tribal Council, political contestants, and civil society to ensure the integrity of future elections.”

Commissioner Patsy Morton said the EC recently met with Carter Center officials, and the EC was very impressed with their background and abilities.

“The people that came were very intelligent and I think they’ll do a great job,” Morton said.

Other action taken at the meeting was the selection of Plumb as the EC chairperson.

Plumb was nominated by Morton and approved by the EC to hold the position that was vacated by former EC Commissioner Roger Johnson, who resigned in July.

“I told the rest of the commission an office was not something that I was seeking, but I would be willing to serve,” Plumb said. “I’m going to need everyone’s expertise and input and I hope to make the election commission more transparent and efficient.”

In old business, EC Attorney Lloyd Cole discussed the status of the Freedman issue and it’s effect on the upcoming election.

“I guess it’s no secret that there’s been a line drawn in the sand between the Cherokee Nation and the Federal government,” Cole said. “We’ve, unfortunately, got a dog in the fight because we’re sitting here waiting for people to tell us what to do. What happens in the court systems is going to impact us in this forthcoming election.”

Cole added that the hearing is Sept. 20, and it appears that the EC isn’t going to have much time to prepare for the decision.

Cole said he doesn’t know that a ruling will be issued that day but he suspects that U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy, who has been presiding over the federal case, is aware that the CN has an upcoming election. Cole said he hopes that Kennedy would have some kind of decision to be made on that day.

“I don’t know whether it makes any difference because they’ve already arbitrarily said ‘we don’t care what happens, we’re not recognizing your activities to disenfranchise the Freedman,’” Cole said.

The EC also approved the remaining precinct workers needed for the Sept. 24 election, and it also approved a change for the vault entry procedure used during the election process.

Plumb proposed amending the EC’s procedures that would require two signatures to enter the vault.

“I still would like for us to consider an amendment to our procedures that require during an election period that you require two signatures to enter the vault and a vault log that describes what the purpose of entering the vault was,” Plumb said. “I think it would help us to be very clear and that our actions were deliberate.”

Cole suggested that the EC not only incorporate the procedure changes during the counting processes, but also throughout the entire election itself including the time period set aside for recounts.

The EC discussed and approved the final locations of precincts for the Sept. 24 election.

Other items discussed included approving a request from the Chad Smith campaign requesting that its deposit for the “conditional recount” be returned. Cole said he thought the amount for the machine recount was $3,000.

“I researched that, I think it’s refundable,” Cole said. “We did not hold that recount. I looked at the statutes and if you don’t have the recount I don’t think that you are entitled to the deposit.”

The EC tabled the approval of the campaign financial reports and the absentee ballot counting procedure and possible hiring of additional counters. The EC plans to discuss the issues at its next meeting.

The EC also approved the dates of the special election for the District 2 council seat. Those specific dates are available here.

jami-custer@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
About the Author
Reporter

Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007.

She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. 

Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. 

She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. 

“My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.
jami-murphy@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Reporter Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007. She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. “My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/28/2016 10:00 AM
OCHELATA, Okla. –Tribal Councilor Dick Lay will host a community meeting from noon to 1:30 p.m. on April 30 at the Cooweescoowee Clinic. A meal will be served at noon, and officials with several CN departments will be present to explain the services they provide. For more information, call 918-822-2981.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/27/2016 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A sample of an Oklahoma prison’s drinking water had more than 12 times the allowable amount of lead when it was tested last year – an amount so high that officials question whether it could really be that bad or if the test could have been misleading. The sample taken from the Charles E. Johnson Correctional Center in Alva was unusually high, but it came from one of 30 Oklahoma water systems that have been found to have lead levels that exceeded the federally allowable limit between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015, according to an Associated Press analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data. They were among nearly 1,400 water systems throughout the country that registered excessive lead levels in that time, the analysis showed. The ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, where residents have been without tap water for months, has highlighted how lead-tainted water can poison children. Even low levels have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Children age 6 and under and pregnant women – whose bones pass along stored lead to infants – are considered the most vulnerable to lead, which can also damage brains, kidneys and production of red blood cells that supply oxygen. No amount of lead exposure is considered safe, but the federal government requires all water systems to maintain lead levels below 15 parts per billion in drinking water. According to a USA Today analysis of the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System database, three water supplies within the Cherokee Nation had levels higher than 15 ppb: Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority in Mayes County at 21.4 ppb, LRED (Woodhaven) in Cherokee County at 17.5 ppb and Skelly School in Adair County at 15.5 ppb to 27 ppb. Cannon MHP’s water supply in McIntosh County had a level of 18.6 ppb, according to the analysis. Part of the county falls within the tribe’s jurisdiction. The Alva prison’s sample had 182 ppb. Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terri Watkins said authorities have reason to doubt whether the reported lead levels were accurate. “That facility was built in the early ‘90s – there are no lead pipes,” Watkins said. “The water is all purchased from the city of Alva, and the city of Alva water tested fine. There was only one location inside the prison that tested high.” Watkins said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has scheduled another test of the prison’s water system, but she didn’t know the exact date. When more than 10 percent of tap water samples in a local system contain lead levels of at least 15 ppb, the state steps in to review the water system’s treatment for corrosive properties and update the sampling schedule as necessary. In a letter sent on March 31, employees of the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina were informed that drinking water from the facility tested in 2014 may have been contaminated with high levels of lead. Authorities tested a sample at 97 ppb, which is more than six times the permissible level. “Absolutely, we’re concerned, and that’s why we sent out the letter to warn everybody,” said Shane Faulkner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. “There’s never been any type of people reporting being sick or not feeling well from the water. We’ve had nothing like that. So while we are showing precaution, it hasn’t really turned into a problem for us.” The health effects of lead poisoning are often only apparent months or years after exposure. Although lead exposure is most harmful for children, adults can experience serious health problems after sustained exposure to lead. For now, veterans center employees are not being told to avoid drinking the water unless they have a severely compromised immune system, Faulkner said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/27/2016 12:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Employees from Cherokee Nation Businesses and Cherokee Nation Entertainment are once again celebrating the spring season by volunteering in a statewide initiative to make Oklahoma cleaner, greener and more beautiful. Joining the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Keep Oklahoma Beautiful for the 28th annual Trash-OFF, employees from the tribe’s corporate and entertainment properties cleared trash and debris from alongside local roadways. Trash-OFF is Oklahoma’s signature event in the Great American Cleanup, the nation’s largest community improvement program. Each spring, Trash-OFF brings together thousands of volunteers working to improve the state’s appearance and the safety of its roads. The official Trash-OFF cleanup day was April 23, but the annual effort is held from March 1 through May 31. CNB and CNE employees are volunteering throughout April and May. “The Trash-OFF is a great way to unite communities and show pride in Oklahoma,” said Melody Johnson, ODOT Beautification coordinator. “We are fortunate to have so many caring people pitch in to keep our land grand.” The effort to make Oklahoma roads cleaner and safer for motorists is part of a longstanding partnership between CNB and ODOT. CNB’S involvement with cleanup projects, such as Trash-OFF and the Adopt-A-Highway program, are coordinated through the company’s Community Impact Team, which helps promote volunteerism and community engagement for all employees. “We live in such a beautiful part of this country. It is an honor to be responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the two-mile stretch of Highway 59 South, near our casino,” said Amber Nelson, Cherokee Casino Sallisaw marketing manager, “Many of our team members drive that route every day and feel proud each time they see the Adopt-A-Highway sign with our name on it.” To beautify local communities, CNB and CNE have additional cleanup days scheduled throughout the year. All eight of CNE’s Cherokee Casinos and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa have separate CIT teams that also participate in ODOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/26/2016 03:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to courthouse officials, the Cherokee Courthouse will be closed on April 27-28 for building maintenance. “We will be open on Friday for normal business hours,” officials said. The courthouse is located at 101 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, call 918-458-9440.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/25/2016 03:30 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court on April 19 to uphold a federal law aimed at people who have been convicted of repeated acts of domestic violence on Indian lands. The case argued at the high court tests whether the law and its stiff prison terms can be used against defendants who did not have lawyers in earlier domestic violence convictions in tribal courts. The U.S. appeals court in San Francisco threw out a 46-month federal prison term for defendant Michael Bryant Jr. because his earlier domestic violence convictions were handled without a lawyer in tribal courts on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. Several justices seemed skeptical of the argument of Bryant's lawyer, Steven Babcock. Bryant never challenged his earlier convictions or prison sentences of up to a year. Congress has put limits on prison terms imposed by tribal courts. "So if it's a valid conviction, why can't you use it?" Justice Stephen Breyer asked. Babcock said the use of the earlier convictions in prosecuting Bryant on new charges violated his constitutional right to a lawyer. The Sixth Amendment guarantees an attorney for criminal defendants in state and federal courts. Under the Indian Civil Rights Act, defendants have the right to hire their own attorneys in tribal court but are not guaranteed that one will be retained by the court for them. Justice Department lawyer Elizabeth Prelogar said Congress, in 2005, provided for prosecutions in federal court and lengthier penalties for repeat offenders "in response to the epidemic of domestic violence in Indian Country." Bryant has more than 100 tribal court convictions on his record, including five domestic violence convictions between 1997 and 2007, the government said. In 1999, he attempted to strangle his live-in girlfriend and hit her over the head with a beer bottle, the government said. In 2007, Bryant beat up his girlfriend and kneed her in the face, breaking her nose, the government said. In 2011, federal agents arrested him under the law at issue on charges he beat two women in the span of several months. Prelogar said the appeals court was wrong to rule in favor of defendants like Bryant "who have abused and battered their intimate partners again and again." A decision in U.S. v. Bryant, 15-420, is expected by late June.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Interim Executive Editor – @cp_wchavez
04/21/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On June 5, 10 Cherokee Nation cyclists and seven Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cyclists will begin a three-week bicycle ride from New Echota, Georgia, to travel along the northern route of the Trail of Tears. The “Remember the Removal Memorial Ride” ride is held to commemorate the forced removal of Cherokee people from their southeastern homelands in the 1830s. Since late January, the CN group has been performing physical training in preparation for the journey. And since March, the riders have been training with their bicycles. Kelsey Girty, 24, of Gore, said the riders begin their training day with Cherokee language and history classes at the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah before preparing their bikes to ride. On April 16, they rode hills to prepare for the hills and mountains they will see in eastern Tennessee and beyond in June. She said the bicycle training she has taken part in has made her stronger. “I remember the first day (of training) we went up a hill and it was like so difficult, and then we went up it two weeks later, and it was nothing. We’ve already overcome a lot of obstacles,” she said. Girty said she grew up playing sports and knows about self-discipline to train and practice on her own. Two days a week she lifts weights and another two days she rides her bicycle or runs, she said, in addition to the training with the nine other riders. Along with preparing for the nearly 1,000-mile journey, all of this year’s cyclists, seven women and three men, must complete a 70-mile ride in one day before they are allowed to go on the trip. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot. We’ve done 54 miles, which is getting us close. That’s the furthest we’ve done so far,” she said. Girty said she’s heard about the Trail of Tears all of her life from family and in school but wants to learn more about it by tracing the actual trail. “This is just a way to actually see it with my own eyes and feel it,” she said. She said she also wants to see the removal route in honor of her grandmother, who told her stories about the Trail of Tears, to make her proud. Amber Anderson, of Warr Acres, guessed she was in for a tough day after she was told the cyclists would be training on hills during their April 16 training ride. They tackled a steep hill on Horseshoe Bend Road south of Tahlequah, which has a 7 percent grade and is about a mile long. The 10 cyclists rode up the hill twice along with other steep hills on the day’s route. “It’s challenging. On weekends we train for two days and then on weekdays they encourage us to train every couple days as well,” Anderson said. At home she trains in a gym twice a week and rides 30 to 40 miles two days a week. She credits ride coordinators Kevin Jackson and Sarah Holcomb for encouraging them to improve and for providing the training needed to prepare for the six states they will cross before returning to Oklahoma. “With every ride everyone seems to be meshing together a little bit better, getting to know each other, getting comfortable around each other,” Anderson said. “It’s really great to work with a team of individuals who are passionate about our culture and are here for the same reasons.” Anderson said her family traveled the northern route of the Trail of Tears in the winter of 1838-39, and she said she not only wants to memorialize the Cherokee people who perished during the forced removals, but also celebrate the Cherokee people’s “tenacity.” Blayn Workman, of Muldrow, seemed unfazed by the hill work on April 16. “Whenever we see someone coming up a hill we always cheer them on and clap and tell them ‘good job,’” he said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape considering we’ve only had our bikes for about four weeks now.” He said he applied to go on the trip because he wants to learn more about his ancestors, culture and about the trail. “In schools they only really teach about the Treaty of New Echota. I just wanted to further my knowledge about it (Trail of Tears),” he said. “I want to see the sights my ancestors used to see every day. I want to see the trail they walked. I want to see the monuments, and I want to become connected with that side of myself.”