TAHLEQUAH – Based on poor voter turnout at the Skiatook precinct in recent elections, the Cherokee Nation Election Commission dissolved the site with plans to send affected citizens 30-plus miles away to either Bartlesville or Nowata depending on where they live.
“Our return on investment is just so poor there,” Election Commissioner Elizabeth Ballew said. “I mean, there’s nobody that votes.”
The city of Skiatook is located in Osage and Tulsa counties northwest of Tulsa. There are 132 registered Cherokee Nation voters assigned to the Skiatook polling place, but only six turned out in both the 2015 and 2019 elections. Of those, only two showed up for both elections, according to records.
“It’s not like they’re voting absentee,” Commission Chairman Rick Doherty said. “That’s just a very poor-performing precinct. Out of that 2019 election, there was only 15 people that either voted in person or early absentee here at the office.”
The commission’s unanimous decision to nix Skiatook was backed by the EC’s attorney, Harvey Chaffin.
“I think you need to dissolve it and send them to the nearest precinct,” he said. “Here’s the thing: If you don’t abolish it, it looks like you’re wasting money.”
Commissioners discussed the precinct’s fate Dec. 13, then made their decision at a special meeting Dec. 27. According to commissioners, the change was sparked by a request from District 12 Tribal Councilor Dora Patzkowski.
“Her suggestion on there was to move a precinct over to Collinsville,” EC Administrator Marcus Fears said.
Much closer at nine miles away, the Collinsville polling site was considered, but lies outside of Skiatook’s tribal district. Skiatook is located in District 12. While close, Collinsville lies between Districts 13 and 14.
“It’s not feasible I don’t think, in my thoughts, to move it to Collinsville because that’s in another district,” Doherty said. “Collinsville is the closest town to Skiatook, but you get into another district.”
The closest precincts in District 12 are Bartlesville and Nowata, 30-plus miles north and northeast respectively.
“I wish there was a better solution,” Doherty said.
Election officials said they would base a voter’s new precinct on their proximity to either Bartlesville or Nowata.
“You look at their location and give them the most convenient precinct,” Chaffin said.
Affected voters will be notified of the change. Precinct changes must be submitted to the CN Tribal Council at least 45 days prior to the June 3 General Election.
The election ballot will include principal chief, deputy chief and eight of 17 Tribal Council seats, all of which are four-year terms. The districts include 1, 3, 6, 8, 12, 13 and 14, along with one of the council’s two at-large positions.
Cherokee Nation citizens interested in running for office may pick up a candidate packet at the Election Commission office. The filing period for candidates interested in next year’s election is Feb. 6-9. March 31 is the voter registration deadline, which applies to tribal citizens who have never registered to vote, are not currently registered in the district in which they reside or are registered, but need to change their registration information
For more information, calendars and election FAQs, visit the Election Commission’s website at election.cherokee.org.