After the first day of counting in the Cherokee Nation special election for principal chief, Tribal Council member Bill John Baker unofficially leads former chief Chad Smith by almost 2,200 votes.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, the Cherokee Nation Election Commission released unofficial, machine-counted vote totals by precinct for the tribe’s 38 polling places and walk-in voting, with Baker ahead 6,223 votes to 4,046. That gives Baker an initial lead of 60.6 percent to 39.4 percent.
About 8,700 people voted at their precincts on Sept. 24 and an additional 1,647 voted at the election commission during walk-in days, including 510 during the five additional walk-in days ordered by a federal district court judge. The election commission has not started counting absentee ballots, and the number that were returned has not been disclosed. About 12,000 absentee ballots were requested for the special election, an increase of 3,800 from the general election.
Election commission members spent the rest of Sunday afternoon verifying absentee ballots, and according to a timeline issued by the tribe, will continue doing so all day Monday.
Commission chairwoman Susan Plumb said Sunday that she did not expect the commission to finish reviewing and counting ahead of schedule.
“I don’t expect us to finish early,” she said. “I expect us to finish on time and correct.”
The absentee ballots will be counted Tuesday, followed by the challenge ballots.