UPDATE: Cherokee Nation high court dismisses effort to scrap Dist. 13 race

06/19/2019 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s high court backed Tribal Councilor-elect Joe Deere’s motion to dismiss a petition aimed at invalidating his June 1 victory in the one-man Dist. 13 race.

“That’s a win,” Deere said June 17 following the Supreme Court’s ruling. “I’m glad it’s over. Being that this is the third time I’ve had to come to court and won three times … hopefully we can move on.”

Current Dist. 13 Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen filed the petition June 10. Anglen had also hoped to compete for the seat but in February, Deere alleged the longtime councilor was ineligible based on term limits. It was an argument the election commission agreed with.

Both Deere’s attorney, Carly Griffith Hotvedt, and the CN Election Commission’s attorney, Harvey Chaffin, argued that since Anglen was not a defeated candidate in the race, he had no standing to appeal Deere’s win under CN law.

Anglen’s attorney, Deborah Reed, said Anglen was in fact a candidate early on.

“(Anglen) paid his $500 filing fee, registered as a candidate for office and campaigned for office,” she said.

Supreme Court justices ultimately backed Deere’s motion to dismiss Anglen’s petition.

“The court primarily finds that Buel Anglen lacks standing to challenge the election due to not being a ‘defeated’ candidate,” a Supreme Court order filed June 18 states. “Appellant was disqualified as a candidate so it is a legal impossibility that he could be a defeated candidate. Counsel for the appellant set forth alternative reasons for the calling of a new election but the court also found those arguments to be without merit.”

The argument against Deere’s win centered on the fact that his name never appeared on the ballot. Reed argued that because he received no actual votes, he never won.

“The Cherokee Nation Election Commission failed in its duty to present a candidate for election,” Reed said. “We’re not requesting a new election for Dist. 13. We’re requesting a first election for Dist. 13.”

Chaffin said past elections have both included and excluded lone candidates on ballots. The current commission made a “common-sense decision” to leave Deere off the ballot, Chaffin said, adding that for previous commissions that opted to include unopposed names, “That was their prerogative. There’s nothing in the Constitution that requires an unopposed candidate on the ballot.”

Results of another election would be the same, Chaffin said.

“If he goes and votes himself, he’s elected,” he added.

Of the price tag for a new election, Reed said, “The election commission will incur this cost and rightfully so. All they had to do was put his name on the ballot.”

Hotvedt said a second Dist. 13 election would be “a waste of the Cherokee Nation’s time and resources.”

Reed said that if Deere is allowed in office, it’s by the authority of the attorney general via a letter that Deere said he requested to confirm his election victory.

“My name wasn’t on the ballot, so I requested that from the AG, a verification,” Deere said. “It just made sense.”

Dist. 13 includes portions of Rogers and Tulsa counties. Deere, along with the other winning candidates, will be sworn in Aug. 14.

Click here to view the Supreme Court order.
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