The Cherokee Nation election commission says its official count of the ballots from last weekend’s election give the victory to incumbent principal chief Chad Smith by seven votes.
The certified results released Monday afternoon in Tahlequah have Chad Smith with 7,609 votes and challenger Bill John Baker with 7,602 votes. Over the weekend, the unofficial results had Baker winning by 11 votes.
“If you recall at the close of Saturday night, at the close of the regular ballot count, I was leading. And something happened between 2 o’clock in the morning and 7 o’clock the next morning. I was trailing,” Smith said.
Smith has held the job for 12 years. He wanted to keep it and vowed to fight for it. “Issues like this that are important to the Cherokee people should be decided in the light of day and not the dark of night,” he said.
“Every vote does count,” Smith added.
The tribe has nearly 300,000 members, making it one of the biggest in the nation and the largest in Oklahoma, where it has a 14-county jurisdiction.
News On 6 asked Roger Johnson, the chairman of the election commission, about the reversal. “What we had published earlier early Sunday morning was the unofficial results,” he said.
Johnson refused to elaborate but Chief Smith says it had something to do with the results of 250 challenged ballots. “Basically if they’re not allowed to vote at the poll, the election commission looks at those differently,” Smith said.