Legislators amend tribal election code
Chris Vance, left, and Craig Potts of Hulbert, Okla., are honored during the Dec. 10 Tribal Council meeting for rescuing two handicapped women from a burning car on Dec. 1 in Muskogee. Honoring them are Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, left, and Principal Chief Bill John Baker, who presented Cherokee National Medals of Patriotism to the teens. COURTESY PHOTO
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council at its Dec. 10 meeting amended parts of the Cherokee Nation election code, including adding a residency requirement for At-Large council candidates.
In Chapter 4, under Special Qualifications for Tribal Council, the code now calls for At-Large candidates to establish a bona fide residence “located outside the jurisdictional boundaries” no less than 270 days before the general election.
The previous version did not have a residency requirement for At-Large candidates.
“I believe this to be in violation of our constitution. I think this is out of line and unwarranted, and I will be opposing it,” At-Large Tribal Councilor Julia Coates said.
The CN Constitution states that councilors “representing districts within the boundaries must be domiciled within their district.” And according to Legislative Act 6-10, candidates must permanently reside in the district for which they are candidates “for no less than 270 days immediately preceding the day of the general election in which he or she is seeking election.” However, the act also states, “This section shall not apply to ‘At-Large’ district candidates.”
On March 18, 2011, the tribe’s Election Commission ruled that Coates could run to retain her At-Large seat despite having a Tahlequah residency at the time of filing.
Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts said the At-Large office requirements are different than jurisdictional elected office requirements in that people running for a particular district seat must live in that district.
“It should be up to the Cherokee people in the At-Large districts to decide if the residency or where someone lives is an important campaign issue,” she said.
Tribal Councilor Chuck Hoskin countered Coates and Cowan Watts saying if a person wants to represent At-Large Cherokees they should live among them.
“This is not a radical proposition,” he said. “All this legislation does is level the playing field. If you want to represent folks, live among the folks. That’s a very simple proposition.”
Another amendment is in Chapter 2 under Duties for the EC, which states the commission must now regularly post on the CN website its rules and regulations.
The previous version only required the EC to publish a schedule for its regular meetings, establish an agenda for each meeting in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order and approve and maintain correct and accurate minutes of its deliberations.
Absentee ballots were also addressed in the amendment. Article 3, Return of Absentee Ballots, now states that “voting in person at a precinct by a voter who has requested an absentee ballot shall be permitted, however, that voter must cast a challenged ballot to allow the (Election) Commission to determine whether an absentee ballot was cast. In the event that a valid absentee ballot was returned by the voter the challenged ballot will not be counted. In the event that a valid absentee ballot was not returned by a voter the challenged ballot will be counted.”
The previous code stated that if a voter requested an absentee ballot and then tried to vote at a precinct he or she would not be allowed to vote unless claiming to have never received an absentee ballot. The voter could then cast a challenged ballot.
Tribal Councilors Joe Byrd, Tina Glory Jordan, David Walkingstick, Curtis Snell, Jodie Fishinghawk, Frankie Hargis, David Thornton, Janelle Fullbright, Don Garvin, Meredith Frailey, Hoskin, Dick Lay and Buel Anglen and Cowan Watts voted for the act, while Lee Keener, Jack Baker and Coates opposed it.
The council also approved the lease process to allow Chilocco Wind Park LLC to evaluate and develop a wind farm on CN-owned land in Kay County.
The resolution states Cherokee Nation Businesses has conducted feasibility, transmission and environmental studies to establish a wind farm and has received grants from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior.
However, Lay objected to the proposal saying it was a “bad use of our property.”
“In the long run, it’s not going to pay off without heavy government assistance, and I don’t think this company’s (Wind Park LLC) got it,” he said. “If they ever get to put these windmills up it will ruin this property.”
Cowan Watts said she welcomed the opportunity to take part in the wind farm.
“We as a government have an obligation to our citizens to provide something better than what we see today,” she said. “In our backyard we have a coal-powered plant. We have a higher increased risk of asthma amongst our children and even our adults now. We know from our own air-quality data we need to have alternative fuels.”
The bill passed 16-1 with Lay voting against it.
The council also approved a resolution establishing Council Warrior Awards to recognize current and past councilors, principal chiefs and deputy chiefs for their military service.
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the amendment document.