Which man will be the Cherokee Nation’s principal chief will not be officially determined until tribal court justices consider challenged votes. Unofficial results of the second recount in the race give incumbent Principal Chief Chad Smith the edge with five votes.
However, the numbers aren’t yet certified, and officials did not release the number of challenged votes. The court reconvenes at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Officials spent more than 20 hours counting ballots on Saturday and Sunday — the second recount since the June 25 election.
Smith made a brief announcement once the recount was complete, thanking his supporters first, then announcing his five-vote lead. “After a long effort and a long day, we are pleased with this result,” Smith said. “This shows that every Cherokee vote was counted.”
A statement from challenger Bill John Baker said: “Tonight we had a third count of every vote, and for the third time we got a new number. With almost 40 more ballots counted this evening than were counted on election day — many with erasure marks or white out on them — there are more questions than ever.
“The Supreme Court has asked the candidates not to release any numbers and we respect and will abide by their order. With a razor thin margin separating my opponent and myself, I look forward to going to court on Tuesday, and sorting through this mess. The Cherokee people have lost faith in what Chad Smith called a “fatally flawed” process and I am hopeful that we can find a means to make sure that it is the will of the Cherokee people who elect our chief.”
Baker was unofficially ahead by 11 votes the day after the June 25 election. Smith was certified the winner by seven votes on June 27, prompting Baker to challenge and request a recount. The first recount resulted in Baker winning by 266 votes over Smith.
Smith challenged the results and questioned why the total number of votes tallied dropped by 251 in the first recount. During tribal court proceedings July 11, the court took a break to count absentee vote envelopes — 6,191 ballots were counted that day. Only 5,870 absentee ballots were tallied during the June 30 recount.