Cherokee Nation election commissioners will begin a second recount Saturday in the close and hotly contested election for the leader of Oklahoma’s largest American Indian tribe.
Results from the June 25 election have been in dispute since they were announced the morning after. Unofficial results showed longtime councilman Bill John Baker winning by 11 votes, but when the Cherokee Nation Election Commission announced its official results the next day it said Principal Chief Chad Smith had won a fourth term by seven votes.
A June 30 recount ended with Baker up by 266 votes, but the tribe’s highest court ordered another recount Tuesday.
There are about 300,000 Cherokees, making it Oklahoma’s largest tribe and one of the biggest in the nation. The chief inaugurated Aug. 14 will administer a $600 million annual tribal budget.
The recount that put Baker ahead was done by hand, and Smith complained that a number of ballots weren’t counted. He filed a request for another tally, which the Cherokee Supreme Court ordered after visiting Election Commission offices and counting envelopes that carried the ballots. The second recount also will be done by hand.
Baker had argued Cherokee law prohibited another recount.