Registrar, special election bills pass Rules Committee but not Council
TAHLEQUAH – At the Nov. 14 Rules Committee meeting, Tribal Councilors confirmed Tribal Councilor Frankie Hargis as the registrar for the Cherokee Nation’s Registration Committee as well as a Dec. 29 special election to fill her Dist. 7 seat. However, not enough legislators gathered for a special Tribal Council meeting afterward to approve the resolutions.
Hargis’ appointment passed the Rules Committee by a 14-0 vote. She abstained and Tribal Councilors Mike Dobbins and Dick Lay were absent.
Nominated by Principal Chief Bill John Baker, she is set to assume the registrar role until Aug. 14 pending confirmation by the full Tribal Council, according to the resolution. The registrar’s term is concurrent with the principal chief’s term, the resolution states.
The CN Constitution states the “Registration Committee shall consist of a Registrar and two (2) assistants. All members shall be appointed by the Principal Chief and confirmed by the Council.”
Hargis answered questions from Rules Committee members about her qualifications for registrar and her plans to continue the department’s progress.
“The position is to oversee registration, to sign cards and 8x10’s and such. I have an education that requires a bachelor’s degree. I have had some supervisory experience over the years. I believe we need a registrar, and I was asked to fill the position so…I believe I can serve well over there,” Hargis said.
She also answered questions about expediting citizenship applications, Freedmen applications, safeguarding citizen information and making improvements.
“I don’t see anyone being expedited over any other one unless it’s the school children that need (citizenship) cards for their schooling,” she said.
With regards to Freedmen applications, she said those would be processed as they come in. She also said she would look into safeguarding citizens’ information if she becomes registrar.
She added that she’s not privy yet to all the “ins and outs” of the position but would make any necessary improvements.
Following Hargis’ confirmation, the Rules Committee voted 9-6 to establish Dec. 29 as the special election date to fill her Dist. 7 seat. Voting against the Dec. 29 date were Tribal Councilors Shawn Crittenden, Mike Shambaugh, Mary Baker Shaw, David Walkingstick, Buel Anglen and Harley Buzzard.
Prior to the vote, Election Commission attorney Harvey Chaffin addressed some legislators’ concerns about the date.
“The Constitution addresses the issue of a councilor resigning and holding a special election. That’s what we look at. The Constitution provides that the council calls the election, set the election date. And that’s what you all are considering here today. What we have done at the commission is provided you a proposed timeline that we feel is necessary,” Chaffin said.
He said the EC discussed the timeline in a Nov. 6 meeting and was concerned that if the special election’s timeline was pushed back by a week or two its proceedings could run into the filing period for next year’s general election, which is set for Feb. 4-7.
“The items that are basically in control of the Election Commission, which is the filing period, the time that they have to do the investigations, the time that any citizen has to contest the eligibility of any candidate, that was shortened from five to three days. Filing period was shortened from four to two days. And the time for preparing the absentee ballots, they’ve got one day. If we have a runoff, they’ve got one day to get the ballots printed and stuffed the next day. So they’ve shortened it down as much as they could,” Chaffin said.
He said if the Tribal Council did not approve the Dec. 29 date, then the EC would have to establish a new special election timeline for approval, according to CN election law.
Baker Shaw said the Dec. 29 date was “unfair” for Dist. 7 citizens who may want to vote but have to do so amid the holiday season when many people are busy. And Shambaugh questioned the validity of the absentee ballots request dates. He said requests began Nov. 2 even though the EC discussed the timeline on Nov. 6, allowing four days to pass. According to the proposed Dec. 29 special election timeline, absentee ballot requests close on Dec. 10.
Chaffin told legislators “whether and when you call an election is the council’s decision under the Constitution and under the election law.” According to CN law, a special election must be held within 90 days after a Tribal Councilor leaves his or her seat if a majority of the four-year term remains.
Following the Rules Committee meeting, both resolutions were moved to a special Tribal Council meeting. However, only 11 legislators showed for the meeting. According to the CN Constitution, it takes two-thirds or 12 Tribal Councilors to make a quorum. Failing to meet a quorum, Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd adjourned the meeting.
Along with Dobbins and Lay, who were absent from the Rules Committee meeting, those who did not attend the special meeting were Buzzard, Anglen, Crittenden and Walkingstick.
The Cherokee Phoenix reached out to Buzzard, Anglen, Crittenden and Walkingstick for comment but had not received a response as of publication.