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.

Oklahoma: Who is a Cherokee? Tribal election could be decisive | latimes.com

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.

Oklahoma: Court orders voting open through Oct 8 for all Cherokees | Sequoyah County Times

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.

Oklahoma: New court order allows all registered voters in special election | Cherokee Phoenix

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.

Oklahoma: Judge says Cherokees violate voting rights, extends election | Reuters

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.

Oklahoma: Cherokees hold election; results won’t be known until next month | Tulsa World

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.

Oklahoma: Election Commission sets additional voting dates | Cherokee Phoenix

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

A last-minute agreement allowing nearly 3,000 descendants of slaves once owned by members of the Cherokee Nation to vote for the tribe’s principal chief was being hailed Wednesday by supporters who called it a major victory in the group’s decades-long fight to become fully recognized tribal members while cautioning that “the war is still not over.”

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.

The compromise calls for extending balloting for this Saturday’s special election until Oct. 8 so that those qualified to vote can be notified and participate. Previously, hundreds of freedmen descendants were only told they could cast provisional ballots Saturday, but they would only be counted in the event of a court order.

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.

Oklahoma: Cherokee Election Commission says Freedmen can vote | Native American Times

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.

Oklahoma: Cherokee Commission: Principal Chief Election Will Go On Despite Litigation | NewsOn6.com

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.

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.

Letter sent from Bureau of Indian Affairs to Acting Chief Joe Crittenden (379.7KB)

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.