Concerns that some 273 absentee ballots were not tallied in the recount to determine the next leader of the Cherokee Nation seemed to evaporate Saturday. Two witnesses testified the absentee ballots counted by hand immediately after the election because they could not be tabulated automatically were counted and tallied during the recount.
The first witness observed the recount on behalf of Principal Chief Chad Smith. The second witness, called by Chief-elect Bill John Baker, counted and tallied the ballots at issue. Valerie Giebel, a University of Tulsa law student and Smith campaign volunteer, said during direct examination she saw things that caused concern. But she said she saw counters use a calculator to tally the hand-counted absentee ballots and the “total was moved over to the tally sheet.”
Laura Hendrix, a precinct worker on election day and counter during the June 30 recount, said she remembered sorting, stacking and counting the absentee ballots in question.
“These were the absentee ballots that had been hand-counted” on election night, Hendrix said, noting how the ballots had been bundled separately and wrapped with the hand-written tally sheet. “It’s not possible that the hand-recount was not recorded.”
… While the “vanishing votes” and the integrity of the recount dominated much of the testimony during the second day of the proceedings, the issue of whether illegal votes were cast captured the attention of many.
… Addressing concerns about the disclosure of the personal identifying numbers, the court ordered the release be limited to both campaigns. The court limited the use of that information to the election challenge. Even so, the order angered a number of people attending Saturday’s hearing.
“I’m one mad Cherokee citizen,” said Linda O’Leary, a former council member and past chairwoman of the tribe’s executive finance committee. “This can lead to identification fraud, and I’m not liking it one bit.”
… In other testimony, the Baker campaign examined an forensic financial expert who said the manual recount June 30 had fewer opportunities for errors than the original tabulations election night.
The court denied Baker’s motion to dismiss Smith’s petition. Smith said that ruling was based upon the court’s recognition of the “serious problems with the election.” The court will reconvene at 1:30 p.m. today.