TAHLEQUAH – A Dist. 2 campaign volunteer has been charged by the Cherokee Nation attorney general’s office with fraud and false personation for allegedly filling out and signing absentee ballot request forms without the knowledge or consent of voters.
According to the attorney general’s office, Lisa Dawn Cookson, 53, of Tahlequah, was arrested and charged this week.
“The Cherokee Nation takes these charges very seriously,” Attorney General Sara Hill said in a statement. “It is critical we enforce tribal election laws in order to protect the rights of Cherokee citizens and protect the integrity of the Cherokee Nation’s electoral process.”
The criminal complaint alleges that between January and April, Cookson, while volunteering for a Dist. 2 Tribal Council candidate’s campaign, presented in excess of 15 absentee ballot request forms to the Election Commission in the names of CN citizens without their knowledge.
Cookson is also charged with one count of false personation for allegedly impersonating someone else to fill out and turn in an absentee ballot request form “without the consent or knowledge” of the victim.
According to the attorney general’s office, Cookson is currently free on bond.
The complaint does not state which Dist. 2 Tribal Council candidate Cookson was associated with. The candidates for Dist. 2, which represents a part of Cherokee County, are Candessa Tehee, Dusty Fore, Vicki Creel, Claude Stover, Bobby Slover, Tonya Teaney and Jami Murphy.
This past fall, the Tribal Council refined election regulations and added penalties for anyone caught breaking the rules. A new section called “criminal and civil sanctions”
states that anyone who commits election fraud “shall be deemed to have committed a crime” and shall be referred to the attorney general for prosecution.
Also, CN election code now specifically states that only voters who request an absentee ballot are allowed to sign the document.
“Any absentee ballot request application signed by a person other than the Registered Voter shall be discarded as invalid,” the update states.
The tribe’s General Election is set for June 5.