The Cherokee Nation Election Commission recently announced it has purchased its own automated election system, which will allow the tribe to run its own elections in 2015. In the past, the Cherokee Nation has contracted with various vendors, including Unicyn and Automated Election Services. According to Cherokee Nation Election Commission Director Connie Parnell, by owning its own equipment, computers and software, the tribe will save hundreds of thousands of dollars and improve election security. “Frankly, it’s more cost-effective,” said Parnell. “The last election in October 2013 cost almost $300,000. Each big election was costing that much, without adding in the cost of runoffs and special elections.”
The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission on Dec. 10 unanimously voted to purchase election equipment from Texas-based Hart InterCivic with the expectations of running its own elections in 2015. Election Services Director Connie Parnell said she first contacted the Tribal Rights Employment Office to see if there were any Cherokee-owned election manufacturers from which the EC could purchase the equipment. After learning there were no such companies, the EC moved forward with finding a provider. “There is not a lot of companies left. They’ve all bought out each other,” Parnell said. “And of those that are left – ES&S, Dominion, Hart InterCivic – those are your three major companies that produce election equipment. And they are the manufacturers. They aren’t the middle man.” Parnell said she contacted five companies but only two were interested in working toward the EC’s goal of running its own elections, Hart InterCivic being one.
Oklahoma: Cherokee Nation Election Commission certifies election results Baker wins | Sequoyah County Times
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission certified the election results from the Sept. 24 special election for principal chief. The official results show Bill John Baker received 10,703 votes and Chad Smith received 9,128 votes. Following a three-day counting process, the commission on Wednesday certified the results of the special election. The official results show Baker of Tahlequah received nearly 54 percent of the votes.
According to the tribe’s election law, a request for a recount must be made by 5 p.m. on Oct. 19. Any appeal with the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court challenging the validity of the election, must be made by 5 p.m. on Oct. 24.
Details for an inaugural ceremony to swear in Chief-Elect Baker have not yet been specified. Baker is a Tahlequah businessman who has served multiple terms as a representative on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council. He holds degrees in political science and history in education with minors in sociology and psychology.
Oklahoma: Cherokee Election Commission: Baker declared unnoffical winner of principal chief election | kjrh.com
Bill John Baker has been declared the unofficial winner in the election for principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, election commission officials announced Tuesday evening. Preliminary numbers show Baker received 54% of the vote with 10,633 ballots cast. Incumbent Chad Smith received 46% of the vote with 9,099 ballots cast.
The election has been embroiled in controversy since June. Both Baker and Smith were at one time declared the winner, prompting the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court to order a new election. Then in August, the court stripped the Freedmen, descendants of slaves once owned by tribal members, of their citizenship and right to vote in the special election.
An agreement to maintain the citizenship and suffrage of the Freedmen was ordered in two separate cases in federal court in September. Tuesday morning, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court struck down the agreement in one of those cases a federal judge had recently dismissed.
Reporting from Tahlequah, Okla.— More than 170 years ago the proud Cherokee people in the South were brutally driven into exile in Oklahoma along what became known as the Trail of Tears. Now, an unlikely group of descendants is battling the tribe for its rights. They are the so-called black Cherokees, some of whose ancestors were held as slaves by members of the tribe.
Their quest came to a head in recent days as Cherokees went to the polls in northeastern Oklahoma’s Indian country to select a new chief. Of the more than 300,000 Cherokees in America, about 2,800 are black, and many say their fate could ride on the outcome. Tribes across the nation are wrestling with questions of identity, especially since tribal casinos began generating huge revenue. But the Cherokee Nation, unlike some tribes that allow gaming, does not divide casino profits among its citizens.
And though being a Cherokee in Oklahoma means having access to many services, such as a multimillion-dollar health center, the black Cherokees say the battle is really about identity.
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission has adjourned for the evening and will reconvene Monday tomorrow at 8 a.m. to continue verifying absentee ballots. On Sunday morning the Cherokee Nation Election Commission began counting ballots cast during the special election for Principal Chief.
“We know this has been a long process and that our citizens are eager to know who will serve as the next Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation,” said Susan Plumb, chairperson of the commission. “The Commission has developed a plan and timeline to decrease the chances of human error and provide the Cherokee people with an election in which they can have faith.”
Ballot counting in the special election for principal chief is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. Sunday, more than two weeks after the original election day. The Cherokee Nation Election Commission announced on Thursday that the counting will not be a one-day affair.
“Because of the circumstances surrounding the special election for principal chief, the commission has established a three-day process for counting the election results,” said Election Commission Chairman Susan Plumb. “We know that this has been a long process and people are eager to know who will serve as the next principal chief, but the commission must remain focused on its responsibility of providing the Cherokee people with an accurate, fair and impartial election.” The commission will start Sunday with ballots cast in-person at the 38 precincts and during walk-in voting days.
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission will begin on Sunday counting the ballots cast in the recent special election for Principal Chief and they anticipate the process to take multiple days.
“Because of the circumstances surrounding the special election for Principal Chief, the Commission has established a three-day process for counting the election results,” said Susan Plumb, chairperson of the Election Commission. “We know that this has been a long process and people are eager to know who will serve as the next Principal Chief, but the Commission must remain focused on its responsibility of providing the Cherokee people with an accurate, fair and impartial election.”
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission continued to navigate around roadblocks in the tribe’s efforts to elect a principal chief this week. In the meantime, the two candidates — Chad Smith and Bill John Baker — continued to throw barbs at one another.
On Tuesday the election commission held a special meeting to determine how to comply with a federal court order that all tribal members have until Oct. 8 to vote for a principal chief. Due to vote-count inconsistencies in the first election in June, the tribe held a second election Saturday for principal chief, and will keep the ballot box open for freedmen until Oct. 8, as ordered by a federal court. But the federal court on Tuesday ordered that the ballot box and election had to be open to all tribal members not just the freedmen.
“A new court order has added additional voting days for any registered Cherokee Nation voter and stipulates that no ballots be counted until after the last voting opportunity on Oct. 8,” the election commission said in a prepared statement released Tuesday.
All registered Cherokee voters will be permitted to cast their vote in a special election for principal chief during five open voting dates as a result of a new federal court ruling. Those dates are Sept. 29, Oct. 1, 4, 6 and 8. Voting must be done on a walk-in basis at the Cherokee Nation Election Commission office in Tahlequah.
During a Sept. 23 telephone hearing requested by both U.S. attorneys and Freedmen attorneys to discuss a complaint filed last week by Freedmen attorneys, a compromise was reached to allow all registered Cherokee voters to vote.
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. ruled on the complaint made by attorneys for Cherokee Freedmen descendants last week. The complaint alleged the tribes’ election commission did not comply with certain aspects of ruling made by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia Sept. 21.
A federal judge ruled that the Cherokees violated the voting rights of African-American members of the nation’s second-largest Indian tribe, and he ordered an extension to the voting for chief. Five extra voting days were added by Washington-based District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr for all tribe members, not just the group known as the “freedmen,” who are the African-American descendants of Cherokee-held slaves during the pre-Civil War era.
The ruling followed a Cherokee tribal decision to revoke the membership rights of the African-Americans, saying they were not Cherokee by blood. The freedmen say they were granted tribal membership by a 19th century treaty with the government, and filed suit against the Cherokees in federal court.
Allowing both black and Indian Cherokees to take advantage of the extended voting days is designed to “start the healing process,” said Jon Velie, a freedmen attorney. “We want this racial schism to end,” he told Reuters.
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.
… … 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.
The Cherokee Nation on Saturday held a second election for principal tribal chief, but voters will not know who the winner is until next month. With the ballots not being counted until Oct. 8, official voter turnout figures were not available Saturday. However, outside some polling places, volunteers from both campaigns kept a running total of voters.
“We’ve counted about 400 so far,” said Tribal Council member Jodie Fishinghawk at noon Saturday, who stumped for Tribal Councilor Bill John Baker outside the Wilma P. Mankiller clinic in Stilwell. “That’s about on pace with what we saw here in the June election.”
About 15,000 people voted in the June election, including almost 900 at Stilwell. In accordance with a federal district court order, the Cherokee Nation Election Commission will not count any ballots in the race between former principal chief Chad Smith and Baker until Oct. 8.
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission set two additional walk-in voting dates, and it discussed today’s U.S. District Court order concerning Freedmen citizenship and voting rights at a special meeting today. The special meeting was called to determine the best way to follow the guidelines within the order.
As required by the order, the EC has determined the additional walk-in voting dates for Freedmen to be Sept. 29 and Oct. 6. Absentee ballots for Freedmen will be accepted no later than Oct. 8. The EC added that no votes will be accepted from non-Freedmen after Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. The additional dates only apply to Freedmen voting, commissioners said.
In the decision, the court ordered that the 1,200 Freedmen registered to vote be allowed to vote in the Sept. 24 election “in the same manner as all other Cherokee citizens, without intimidation or harassment, and to have their votes counted on the same basis as all other Cherokee citizens.”
Oklahoma: Slave descendants get Cherokee voting rights, possible tribal inclusion: War ‘still not over’ | The Washington Post
At least two tribal attorneys hailed the compromise hatched a day earlier outside a Washington D.C. federal courtroom as a milestone for the descendants, known as freedmen, because it was the first time the Cherokee Nation admitted in a federal courtroom that the freedmen had tribal rights.
Oklahoma: Cherokee Nation, Federal Government Fight Over Rights Of Freed Slave Descendants | Huffington Post
The Cherokee Nation’s election commission voted Wednesday to allow descendants of slaves once owned by tribal members to cast ballots for principal chief, but they’ll only count in the event of a court order.
Federal officials objected to a ruling last month by the tribe’s highest court that found only people of direct Cherokee ancestry could be members of the tribe and vote in the upcoming election, essentially denying ballots to some 2,800 freedmen descendants.
While the election commission’s vote doesn’t directly overturn the ruling by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, it does allow for freedmen to cast provisional ballots in an effort to make the election results stand, regardless of how the courts ultimately rule.
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission voted Wednesday night to allow previously registered freedmen voters to cast challenge ballots in the upcoming principal chief’s election.
“The purpose of the challenge ballot is that it allows us to be prepared for any possible court decision on the issue,” Election Commission chairwoman Susan Plumb said. “If a court decides the freedmen descendants can vote, we will have the ability to certify the election. If the court decides they cannot vote, we will still be able to preserve the election.”
The election is scheduled for Sept. 24. Plumb and the other commissioners reiterated their desire to not change that date.
The Election Commission for the Cherokee Nation decided to move forward with a special election September 24th for principal chief. The Commission met in Tahlequah Wednesday evening because of new developments in the Freedmen case.
The Nation recently kicked out 2,800 descendants of the tribe’s black slaves who want to vote, and the federal government says that violated an old treaty. A federal judge will hear the case next week. They commission also approved to expedite absentee ballots to Freedmen who are registered voters and requested absentee ballots for the election.
Tribal citizens looking for official results in the upcoming special election for principal chief may be disappointed when balloting ends Saturday, Sept. 24.
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission approved amending its regulations to allow a 48-hour certification period after each election. While unofficial results will be announced before commissioners leave on election night – or the following morning, as was the case in the recent election – final canvassing and official results will not be determined until two days later.
Newly appointed Election Commissioner Susan Plumb proposed the amendment. “I don’t know of any other entity, whether it’s state, municipal or otherwise, that certifies election results immediately,” said Plumb.
Oklahoma: US Government warns Special Election for Cherokee Nation Principal Chief may not be valid | FOX23 News
In a letter sent to Acting Principal Chief Joe Crittenden, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs warns that the Special Election for Principal Chief, scheduled for September 24th, will not be valid if the Cherokee Freedmen cannot vote.
The letter states that the U.S. Government does not recognize the 2007 Cherokee Constitutional Amendment that was upheld by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court. The amendment maintains that Freedmen are not citizens of the Cherokee Nation tribe, and are not eligible to vote. Because the U.S. Government is not recognizing the amendment, the special election would not be valid if the Freedmen are not allowed to vote.
A group of freedmen is asking U.S. courts to restore their voting rights – in time for the Chief’s election in two weeks. The freedman voted in the first election – but as of now – cannot vote in the new election.
The issue of what to do with the freedman dates back to the civil war and it’s more unsettled now than ever. The freedmen, descendents of the tribe’s slaves, finally lost their citizenship last month after four years of legal arguments.
The Cherokee Supreme Court approved the tribe’s vote to expel the freedmen, even though their citizenship was established by treaty. The Cherokee nation argues only the tribe can define a member and for them – it’s a simple question of having bloodline back to the members on the Dawes Roll.
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission held a special meeting on Aug. 30, and due to pending lawsuits, it’s still undetermined whether Cherokee Freedmen will be eligible to vote in the Sept. 24 principal chief election.
CN Attorney General Diane Hammons was in attendance at the meeting, and she said a hearing in the Freedmen matter is slated for Sept. 20 in federal court. The filing period for the plaintiffs of the Freedmen lawsuit is Sept. 2, and the CN has 10 days to respond and five days for a reply, Hammons said.
Cherokee Freedman William Austin of Muskogee attended the EC meeting and asked how he and other Freedmen would be notified whether they will be allowed to vote or not. “When you get your ballot, if you get one,” EC attorney Lloyd Cole replied.
The Cherokee Nation will not amend its election laws for the upcoming principal chief’s race. At its regular Rules Committee meeting Thursday, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council voted 8-4 to table a bill by acting Council Speaker Cara Cowan Watts of Claremore that would have codified a July 12 request from the council that the tribe’s Election Commission bring in a third-party organization to observe next month’s election.
The proposal also would have required voters to show identification when arriving to vote, such as a driver’s license, citizenship card, voter registration card or other identification specified by the Election Commission. The tribe’s election law allows for poll workers to identify voters by sight, rather than photo identification, if they know the voter in question.
The attorney representing freedmen in their case against the Cherokee Nation said Tuesday that he was shocked the tribe’s Supreme Court ruled against the freedmen so close to the special election to pick a new chief.
Attorney Ralph Keen Jr., of Stilwell, said the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court’s ruling, which was handed down on Monday, came a day before the tribe’s election officials sent out absentee ballots for the election between Chad Smith and Bill John Baker.
The tribal court’s decision means about 2,800 freedmen — the ancestors of slaves who had been owned by Cherokee members — won’t be able to vote in the Sept. 24 election. Hall said the timing “shocked me … when you put it in the context of the special tribal election.”
Cherokee Nation citizens will head to the polls in a little over a month to determine who will lead the tribe for the next four years. Following the June 25 general election, the Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation ruled the election for principal chief invalid, due to the inability to determine the results between former Principal Chief Chad Smith and challenger Bill John Baker, a two-term tribal councilor. A new election for principal chief has been called for Saturday, Sept. 24.
Acting Principal Chief Joe Crittenden, who will resume his duties as deputy chief once the Sept. 24 election concludes, wants all citizens to participate in the process.
Failing to make quorum, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council did not take action on potential amendments to the tribe’s election code at a special meeting Friday afternoon.
Twenty minutes before the meeting’s scheduled 3 p.m. start time, principal chief candidate and Tribal Council member Bill John Baker, along with councilors Tina Glory-Jordan of Hulbert, Okla., Chuck Hoskin Jr., of Vinita, Okla., Jodie Fishinghawk from Stilwell, Okla., and Curtis Snell from Rose, Okla., issued a statement through Baker’s campaign that they would not be attending the special council. The five called the meeting illegal due to the presence of proposed election law amendments on the agenda that had not been vetted by the council’s rules committee.
“The Tribal Council rules are crystal clear that an issue cannot be addressed by the council unless it has first been considered and passed out of a council committee, “ Baker said in the statement.
The Cherokee Nation’s special election for principal chief has been set for Saturday, Sept. 24. The date, set by Principal Chief Chad Smith according to tribal law, should allow ample time for tribal citizens to participate. Candidates for the special election are incumbent Smith, a three-term principal chief; and challenger Bill John Baker, a three-term tribal councilor.
The special election is the result of the CN Supreme Court’s ruling that vacated the results of the June 25 election, in which both Smith and Baker filed lawsuits. The court vacated the results of the election on Thursday, June 21, stating it was impossible to determine the results with any mathematical certainty. Cherokee Nation law indicates, in such cases, a special election must be called by the principal chief “as soon as practical.”
Cherokee citizens will head to the polls September 24 to decide who will be the next Principal Chief. “That was the date recommended by the Election Commission to best allow our citizens to fully participate in the election,” said Principal Chief Chad Smith. “The commission thought that gave enough time to notify our citizens of the dates important to the election, including a period of time for voters to request absentee ballots.”
Cherokee Nation law says that in such cases, a special election must be called by the Principal Chief “as soon as practical.”
All citizens who were registered to vote in the June 25 general election will be eligible to vote in the special election, officials said. The election law ends voter registration for an election year on March 31 of that year, so voters who registered after the deadline will not be eligible to vote in the special election, says election commission officials.
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission decided Tuesday morning to delay filling a vacancy created by the resignation of former Chairman Roger Johnson. The EC opted to instead wait until after tribe’s attorney general issues opinions on the upcoming special election for principal chief, and a rules committee and special tribal council meeting have been held over the next two weeks.
Three of the four commissioners – Patsy Eads-Morton, Brenda Walker and Curtis Rohr – met with commission attorney Lloyd Cole Tuesday. Martha Calico was absent, but only three commissioners are needed to make a quorum.
Cherokee Nation officials delayed decisions Tuesday regarding a special election to choose the tribe’s next principal chief. Election commissioners said they are awaiting a response from the tribe’s attorney general regarding three inquiries submitted Friday.
They also are waiting for the tribal council’s appointment of a commissioner to replace Roger Johnson, who resigned after the June 25 election. Officials said the special election issues pending before the attorney general primarily involve three questions of law.