The Carter Center Tuesday issued a lengthy statement about the recent Cherokee Nation special election, as well as recommendations to the tribe’s election commission moving forward. The entire statement can be found here.
The Carter Center congratulates the election commission, candidates, and voters of the Cherokee Nation on a successful election day. Sept. 24 was the only day for voters to cast ballots at 38 precincts in the Nation, but there will be additional opportunities for citizens to cast a ballot at the election commission and for Freedmen to vote by absentee ballot to determine who will be the next principal chief.
… The Sept. 24, 2011, Special Election for Principal Chief was called after a series of recounts with varying totals and slim margins prompted the Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation to vacate the election because it was unable to determine a winner with mathematical certainty. The Sept. 24 election was, essentially, a rerun of the June 25 election. Principal Chief candidates Bill John Baker and incumbent Chadwick Smith competed vigorously throughout the process.
Simultaneously, a number of developments in the ongoing struggle between the Cherokee Nation and the descendents of Freedmen regarding the status of Freedmen as citizens of the Cherokee Nation, impacted the September election. Freedmen who had voted in the June 25 election were stripped of voting rights following an Aug. 22 ruling of the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court. Four days before the election, a federal court ordered that these rights be restored, resulting in a number of last-minute changes to the electoral process. These included amendments to the voters roll to reinstate eligible, registered Freedmen on the list; the mailing of absentee ballots to Freedmen voters; the addition of in-person voting days for Freedmen voters from Sept. 24-Oct. 8; and most significantly for election day, a delay of the vote counting process until the week of Oct. 9, 2011. It was in this context that the Sept. 24 election day unfolded.
… Overall, Carter Center observation teams commended the competent administration of the election by the election commission and precinct polling staff. The disciplined conduct of this election was notable given the shifting legal parameters and the additional administrative burden placed on the election commission in the days before the election by the federal court order.