TAHLEQUAH – A Cherokee Nation citizen who filed for candidacy for deputy chief but was denied entry into the June 3 General Election is appealing the Election Commission’s decision to the tribe’s Supreme Court.

David Comingdeer was rejected as a candidate by the EC based on still-owed attorney’s fees and costs assessed in a previous Supreme Court case related to the 2021 election. At the time, Comingdeer lost a run-off race in District 7, sought a recount then filed a complaint against both his opponent and the Election Commission. 

The Supreme Court ultimately dismissed Comingdeer’s challenge and ordered him to pay $6,300 for his opponent’s attorney fees and an additional $393.82 for what the court listed as “costs.” The Election Commission was also granted its request for $6,300 in attorney fees, but has not been paid, according to commissioners.

“A letter was sent denying the eligibility based on unpaid attorney’s fees and costs in a previous case,” the EC’s attorney, Harvey Chaffin, said during a March 3 hearing. “The candidate submitted a statement they thought justified their eligibility. The commission didn’t feel that statement was sufficient.”

Comingdeer filed his Supreme Court appeal on March 10. He argues that election code wording supporting the EC’s decision was passed after he was assessed in 2021, and that it would be unconstitutional to apply it retroactively.

The original section of election code stated that, “Any outstanding fines imposed by the Election Commission … must be paid before a person can be eligible to run as a candidate for an elective office in a subsequent election.” An act passed in May 2022 revising the code added “court ordered fines, costs, attorney’s fees and/or civil penalties” from a previous election.

“The Constitution of the Cherokee Nation, Article VI, Section 8, states, ‘No laws passed by the Council shall have retroactive effect or operation,’” Comingdeer says in his appeal.

Comingdeer also argues the code is unconstitutional because it’s “inconsistent and more restrictive than what is required for the qualifications prescribed by the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation, Article VII, Section 3.”

“There are several Cherokee Nation cases containing precedent where legislative acts which add new requirements or more restrictive requirements to a constitutional provision are unconstitutional,” his appeal states, citing Allen v. Cherokee Nation (2006), McLain v. Cherokee Nation Election Commission (1998) and Leach v. Tribal Election Commission (1995). 

All parties involved have until March 20 to file further documents for review by the court.

Deputy chief candidates already certified by the EC include Meredith Frailey, Bill Pearson, David Walkingstick and Bryan Warner (incumbent).

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