As you may have heard, on Friday, May 17, Councilor David Walkingstick, candidate for Principal Chief, was disqualified from the race by the Election Commission for alleged misuse of tribal resources (a cell phone) and for improper donations to an LLC, Cherokees for Change, established independently by supporters. Councilor Walkingstick has stated that on Monday, May 20, he intends to appeal the Election Commission’s decision to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court.
Without arguing the merits (or not) of the decision, the question most immediately in front of absentee voters in this election is…
WHAT HAPPENS NOW TO MY VOTE?
The dilemma, of course, is that thousands of Cherokees have already received absentee ballots and have been voting for two weeks already. While Cherokees within the boundary can request absentee ballots as well, the impact of this decision coming in the middle of the absentee voting period falls very disproportionately on the At Large voters, since virtually all of us must vote absentee. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of At Large voters had already cast their ballots when this decision came down.
(1) Since Friday, the most common questions I’ve been getting from citizens are about the validity of their other votes for Deputy Chief and Tribal Councilor. Many are wondering if they already voted for Walkingstick, will the whole ballot will be cast out, or just the vote for Walkingstick?
Only the votes for David Walkingstick will be disregarded if the disqualification stands. Your votes in the other races for Deputy Chief and Tribal Councilor will still count.
(2) Another question is, if I don’t care for the other two candidates, or for any of the candidates, do I have to vote for someone anyway in order for my other votes to be counted?
No. Just as in any election, you can simply abstain from voting in that particular race by simply not marking the ballot for Principal Chief. You may mark the same ballot for the other races (Deputy Chief and Tribal Councilor) and they will be counted.
(3) And a third question has been, if there is still a possibility that the disqualification will be overturned by the Supreme Court and I have not voted yet, should I still go ahead and vote for Walkingstick if that’s who I wanted to vote for?
I’m not making a recommendation on this one, but if you have not yet voted absentee and you reside outside Oklahoma, you may want to hold off until Friday or Saturday, May 24 or 25 to see what happens before you mark, notarize, and send your ballot. Be aware that Monday, May 27 is a holiday and there will be no mail service. But I would recommend not waiting any longer than Saturday to mail it.
For those within Oklahoma, you have a couple of additional days if things have not already shaken out, but I would recommend not waiting any longer than Wednesday, May 29, to mail your ballot.
The Deputy Chief and Tribal Councilor races are still very relevant however, so be sure to go ahead and vote them.