DEVELOPING: Cherokees protest election outcome
John Fair, left, holds a sign during a June 30 protest at the Cherokee Nation Election Commission in Tahlequah, Okla. Fair, along other supporters of principal chief candidate Bill John Baker, protested while the tribe’s Supreme Court conducting a hearing regarding alleged election improprieties. Baker requested a recount after the commission overturned unofficial results showing his victory in the race and declared incumbent Chad Smith the winner. CRAIG HENRY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – About 60 people, ranging from children to elders, gathered June 30 at the Election Commission building to protest the certified results of the Cherokee Nation’s principal chief race and support challenger Bill John Baker.
“What we’re doing today is we’re asking and praying that the Election Commission do an honest count because we have had several different stories of how the count was arrived at after the election was to be certified Sunday morning (June 26) just after 7 a.m. by the Election Commission,” Linda O’Leary, a former Tribal Councilor and one of the protestors, said.
Certified election results show Principal Chief Chad Smith with 7,609 votes to Tribal Councilor Baker’s 7,602. Unofficial results released by the EC on June 26 showed Baker leading with 7,600 votes to Smith’s 7,589.
An Internet- and Facebook-based group called Cherokees ForTruth organized the peaceful protest. According to its webpage, the protests were slated for June 30-July 1 at the EC building.
“We have spoken and have been ignored! The time to act is now!” states cherokeesfortruth.com. “There has never been a more critical time for our people to step up and take our nation back from those who feel no responsibility to the people! Those elected to lead us and look out for our best interests have made it blatantly obvious that they have no respect for our laws or our constitution (1976 or 1999) that they are sworn to defend! We are a grassroots group of Cherokee Citizens who demand transparent and responsible government….Our laws are broken, our elections are fraudulent, our nation is in crisis. Stand up for what is right! Join the movement and let’s demand a democratic Cherokee Nation now!”
Protestors began gathering at the EC building around 10 a.m. A Supreme Court hearing to determine whether ballots were properly secured after the election commenced at 9 a.m. with both campaigns represented.
On June 28, Baker filed a petition for emergency injunctive relief with the Supreme Court asking the court to order the EC to provide answers or documentation as to why the unofficial election results were overturned.
The EC then filed a motion to dismiss Baker’s petition but was denied by the court because it had already ordered the EC to turn over election documents to both candidates by 11 a.m. on June 29.
However, Baker’s campaign said the EC did not turn over all records and information the court had ordered. He has since filed petitions asking the court to hold EC Chairman Roger Johnson in contempt of court and to force the EC to provide all relevant information as ordered. He has also requested a recount.
Tribal Councilor Chuck Hoskin Jr., one of Baker’s lawyers in the election dispute, said Baker was overjoyed that Cherokee citizens have come out to show support for him.
“They (protestors) are really discouraged about what’s happened and they want to do something, and so they’re out here raising their voices. And he is just as proud of them as he can be, and I am too,” Hoskin said. “ I know the chief is very disparaging of them. I’ve heard his statement and I can’t imagine why any Cherokee citizen would begrudge any Cherokee citizen from raising their voice in this time of great crisis.”
Smith said that everybody is entitled to express an opinion, but found it odd that the group was protesting a recount that Baker had asked for.
“Why do you protest a recount that you’ve petitioned the court for? That’s a little bit odd,” he said. “It’s really reflective of the entire campaign. It’s a very mean-spirited negative protest. It’s directed towards me and not the advocacy of a particular position. So it really reflects Mr. Baker’s entire campaign being negative and being personal.”firstname.lastname@example.org • 918-453-5000, ext. 6139
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