Election Commission sets ballot order
Marcus Fears, Cherokee Nation Election Commission administrator, holds up a candidate name for the principal chief’s race on March 18 during a ballot order drawing in Tahlequah. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation candidates headed to the June 1 general election will be listed on the ballot based upon a drawing held in March by the Election Commission.
The process was handled during an EC meeting on March 18. Election officials drew names randomly from a foam cup in front of commissioners, their attorney, other election staff and audience members.
Before election law was changed, Elections Director Connie Parnell said, candidates or their proxies were allowed to draw for the ballot order. That practice ended in 2013.
“It was a big show more than anything,” Parnell said. “Not everybody got to be here, so a few got to make those decisions.”
The victor of this year’s principal chief race will replace outgoing chief Bill John Baker, whose term is expiring. The ballot order for that race is Chuck Hoskin Jr., Dick Lay and David Walkingstick. A fourth candidate, California resident Rhonda Brown-Fleming, was tossed because she lives outside the CN jurisdiction, a specific requirement for the job.
Hoskin, of Vinita, is a former tribal councilor and the former CN secretary of state. He resigned from his CN position to run for office, as required by law.
Lay, of Ochelata, is the current Dist. 12 councilor. Walkingstick, of Tahlequah, is the current Dist. 3 councilor. The terms of both candidates will reach their limits this year.
Candidates in the deputy chief race will be listed as Bryan Warner then Meredith Frailey. They are running to replace S. Joe Crittenden, whose term is expiring. Candidate Linda Sacks, of Muskogee, withdrew from the race in February.
Warner, of Sallisaw, is the current Dist. 6 councilor. Frailey, of Locust Grove, is a former council speaker.
Ballot listings for district races will be as follows:District 1
Ryan Sierra and Rex Jordan (incumbent).District 3
RJ Robbins, Debra Proctor, Jim Cosby, Brandon Girty, Billy Flint, Larry Dean Pritchett and Wes Nofire.District 6
Ron Goff, Gary Trad Lattimore and Daryl Legg.District 8
Ralph F. Keen II, Jodie Fishinghawk and Shawn Crittenden (incumbent).District 12
Don Scott, Phyllis Lay, Dora L. Smith Patzkowski and Todd M. Branstetter.District 13
Joe Deere.District 14
Cara Cowan Watts and Keith Austin (incumbent).At-Large
Steve Adair, Johnny Jack Kidwell, Julia Coates, Wanda Hatfield (incumbent) and Pamela Fox.
Dist. 1 candidate Randy Dirteater withdrew from the race in February.
The Dist. 13 race initially included longtime Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen. Deere challenged Anglen’s eligibility to run based on term limits. The EC deemed Anglen ineligible to run again. He appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed with the EC.
The March placement drawing was initially planned for February, Parnell said.
“The appeal process pushed it all back,” she said. “But everything’s pretty much back on track.”
Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, wrote that ballot order and its effect on the outcome “has long fascinated political scientists.”
“The advantage for first-listed candidates varies widely,” he says in an analysis of research essays on the topic. “In some elections a first-listing produces just a handful of votes, though they can make the difference in an extremely close election. In other elections a first-listing can generate extra votes up to about 5 percent of the overall tally, according to some studies.”
In 2003 and 2007, first-listed candidate Chad Smith was elected principal chief. He faced three challengers in 2003 and one four years later. Listed in the first of two spots in 2011, Smith lost to Baker following a recount and special election. Baker defended his seat four years later while listed second on a ballot of four.