UPDATE: Election Commission follows orders from U.S. District Court

BY JAMI MURPHY
Former Reporter
09/22/2011 11:23 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Election Commission set two additional walk-in voting dates, and it discussed the Sept. 21 U.S. District Court order concerning Freedmen citizenship and voting rights at a special meeting Sept. 21.

The special meeting was called to determine the best way to follow the guidelines within the order.

“We will continue to follow the laws given to us by legislators and judges alike. It will be expensive, it will be time-consuming and it will be accomplished. Up to this point our early walk-in voting turnout is exceeding our first election by about (50) percent, which we believe shows that there is still confidence in our process,” the EC wrote in an emailed statement.

As required by the order, the EC has determined the additional walk-in voting dates for Freedmen to be Sept. 29 and Oct. 6. Absentee ballots for Freedmen will be accepted no later than noon, if returned by mail, on Oct. 8. They may also return absentee ballots in-person between 7a.m. and 7 p.m. on Oct. 8.

The EC added that no votes will be accepted from non-Freedmen after Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. The additional dates only apply to Freedmen voting, commissioners said.

In the decision, the court ordered that the 1,200 Freedmen registered to vote be allowed to vote in the Sept. 24 election “in the same manner as all other Cherokee citizens, without intimidation or harassment, and to have their votes counted on the same basis as all other Cherokee citizens.”

“Our goal as a commission is to follow this order….eligible Freedmen voters will cast ballots on Sept. 24,” said EC Chairperson Susan Plumb.

The EC was to send letters to all eligible voters by 6 p.m. Sept. 21 that state that they are allowed to cast a ballot during the upcoming election, and the ballot will not be challenged or provisional.

The EC will also send the Bureau of Indian Affairs the bylaws, current election laws and information on how the commission will comply with the order.

According to officials, the registration department will also send a similar letter to Freedmen descendants notifying them of their reinstatement by the court’s decision.

Per the order, no ballots will be counted until Oct. 8, Plumb said.

EC meeting attendees voiced concerns on how the ballots will be safeguarded from Sept. 24 through Oct. 8.

According to the EC, the CN Marshal Service will have a 24-hour security watch throughout that time period.

“With the help of the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, we will secure and safeguard the ballots until the commission begins counting them Oct. 8,” the EC wrote in the statement.

Attendees also questioned the EC about how it will be determined during the two-week voting period that ballots received are those of Freedmen or non-Freedmen.

Each ballot is printed with a barcode and that barcode will help determine whether or not the ballots received after the Sept. 24 voting day are those of Freedmen or not, Plumb said.

jami-custer@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560

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