Third-party observer for Cherokee primary chief election endorses results
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON World Correspondent
Saturday, October 15, 2011
10/15/11 at 7:50 AM
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view key documents in the Cherokee Nation election.Original Print Headline: Observer endorses Cherokee vote tally
TAHLEQUAH - The third-party group that observed the Cherokee Nation's special election for principal chief has endorsed the counting process used earlier this week.
"Based on our observation of the counting process, The Carter Center has confidence in the results certified by the commission," Deborah Hakes wrote for the Atlanta-based organization in its preliminary report on the additional walk-in voting days and counting procedures.
After three days of counting, the Cherokee Nation Election Commission certified the results of the tribe's special election, naming Bill John Baker chief-elect by 10,703 votes to former Chief Chad Smith's 9,128 votes.
Despite having confidence in the counting process, the center did note a few areas of concern and suggested changes for future elections.
Among areas of concern was the need to establish eligibility criteria for challenge ballots - those cast by voters who either are not on a precinct's voter list or requested but never received an absentee ballot.
The Carter Center suggested that the Election Commission work with the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council to clarify the tribe's election law and potentially expand the opportunities for the use of challenge ballots.
Challenge ballots were also among the concerns outlined in the center's Sept. 27 report.
The center also encouraged the Election Commission to establish and publish clear, written guidelines for the acceptance or rejection of ballots. Among the nearly 10,000 absentee ballots cast were 300 that were rejected because of a missing notary seal or notary signature.
Although congratulating Baker for his win, the Carter Center encouraged Smith to "demonstrate his proven leadership by accepting the results and working with Mr. Baker to restore the confidence of the Cherokee people in the electoral process."
Near the bottom of the report, Hakes noted that the counting-room watcher for Smith's campaign left early Tuesday, saying the campaign had told her it was conceding.
Smith has not answered questions about his immediate plans, including whether he will concede. He has until 5 p.m. Wednesday to request a recount or 5 p.m. Oct. 24 to file an appeal.
"The Carter Center observed the ballots being cast and counted and saw that the Election Commission did a good job following the ever-changing election rules," Smith said in a statement issued through his campaign.
"But the acting chief, on his own, changed the election rules both before and after election day in violation of tribal law and allowed a group of non-citizens to vote.
"The Carter Center ignored the elephant in the room - an election held in violation of a Supreme Court decision," Smith continued. "That's what concerns the Cherokee people."
On Tuesday, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court said it would not recognize an agreement reached in federal court that reinstated the tribal citizenship of 2,800 descendants of freedmen who had been slaves of the Cherokees. That agreement also extended the voting period an additional two weeks.
Former Principal Chief Chad Smith: "The Carter Center ignored the elephant in the room - an election held in violation" of a court decision.