• Julia Coates

A MATTER FOR ELECTION REFORM

Absentee Ballot Request Form

Cherokee Nation Election Reform

‘Siyo nigadv,

I think we are all suffering from election fatigue, and I think many of you have seen the results of the various races. But for those who haven’t, I just wanted to give a quick update and share some information about how the absentee vote was handled by the Election Commission.

A GOOD MIDDLE GROUND

The day before the election, the Election Commission decided that they would take the overall number of ballots voted as the baseline and count the actual votes for Mr. Hoskin and Councilor Lay in relation to that baseline number. They announced that if neither candidate got 50% of that baseline number, then there would be a runoff between the two. In a way, this sort of counted the absentee vote for Councilor Walkingstick as a “ghost” vote that would come into play if neither of the remaining candidates took a majority. In all, I think the Election Commission found a pretty good middle ground given the circumstances of this particular election.


In this way, Chuck Hoskin Jr. was elected Principal Chief with almost 58% of the vote. The remaining challenger, Dick Lay, received a little over 27% of the vote. You will note that 58% and 27% only add up to 85%, so we can surmise that at least 15% of the vote would have gone to David Walkingstick, and that would have come from the absentee ballots that had already been voted. Had he remained a candidate, the in-person vote for him would have contributed to a higher percentage overall, but that’s a moot point since Councilor Walkingstick was disqualified and in-person precinct voters seem generally to have been informed of that on election day and voted for a different candidate.


A MATTER FOR ELECTION REFORM

My communications with you on this matter have never addressed the merits of Councilor Walkingstick’s disqualification. Those will be argued in the public sphere and people will form their own opinions about it. My concern, when the disqualification was upheld, was that this would implicitly disenfranchise the At Large vote. And had the Election Commission counted only the number of real votes, rather than work he baseline of overall ballots voted, that would indeed have been the case. But they did not do that and so I think we can feel confident that the At Large vote was NOT disenfranchised in this election after all. I do feel that the letters that I wrote and those of Councilor Mary Baker Shaw, as well as the many expressions from At Large voters on social media and to the AG’s office and the Election Commission, made the difference. Without them, I doubt there would have been much recognition or consideration of the issue of At Large disenfranchisement as a class.

This is something that still needs to be addressed in election reform because at present, as the AG pointed out, we have no way in our laws to handle the disqualification of a candidate after absentee voting has already begun. And it’s not hard to imagine scenarios in which charges against a candidate are “sat on” and are not even brought forth to the AG and EC until after voting begins. In this way, the timing can be used as a political strategy. The solution the EC employed this time was probably a good way to go with this given this year’s political alignments, but it might not be as workable a remedy in the future if the political camps are aligned differently than they were this time. Whatever the solution is to be, it needs to be discussed, fleshed out, and codified by the Tribal Council as part of overall election law reform.


OTHER RESULTS

In other races, Bryan Warner was elected Deputy Chief with about 59% of the vote. Since there were only two candidates in this race, this is where we can see the actual percentages according to real votes.

In my race, I was the top vote-getter, with 45% of the vote. My closest challenger received 30% of the vote, but because I did not get more than 50% on the first ballot, there will be a runoff between the two of us on July 27. There are two additional runoffs for in-district Tribal Council seats as well.


THE PROCESS FOR RUNOFF VOTING

There is a short period of time now when absentee ballot requests will be accepted for the runoff. If you voted in the General Election that just concluded, you do not need to make a new request. You will automatically be sent a ballot. However, if you are a registered voter but did not make a request for an absentee ballot for the general election, you may do so now by downloading the attached form, filling it out, and submitting it to the Election Commission at the address on the form. I recommend emailing it since we know of a number of requests that were mailed or faxed and were apparently not received. The EC will accept a photo of the form emailed to them as well, so if you are not able to scan it, take a picture of it with your smartphone and email that.


Please copy my campaign on the email as a backup. We have been able to assist a couple of people who sent their requests in an email but never received a ballot. Because they had copied the request to us, we were able to verify on their behalf to the EC that it had indeed been sent. The email for my campaign is Julia@juliacoates.com.

New absentee ballot requests must be received at the Election Commission by midnight on June 17. Their email address is election-commission@cherokee.org. Ballots will be mailed out on June 24 and 25, and must be received by the Election Commission by July 27.

Wado!

Julia

Download Absentee Ballot Request form here

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