Cherokee court has Thursday deadline to consider Smith's election appeal
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON World Correspondent
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
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TAHLEQUAH — A timeline is now in place for an appeal filed in the special election for Cherokee principal chief.
As per the tribe’s election law, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court has until Thursday to decide whether to hear an appeal filed by former principal chief Chad Smith.
Smith filed an appeal with the Cherokee Supreme Court late Monday afternoon, contesting the election’s certified results.
On Oct. 12, the Cherokee Nation Election Commission certified Bill John Baker as the winner of the special election by a 10,703-9,128 count.
In his appeal, Smith claims that the election is invalid because ballots were cast after the Sept. 24 election date and because votes by an unknown number of about 1,200 freedmen descendants who are registered to vote were counted.
“How can you have a legitimate election when hundreds of people voted illegally?” Smith asked. “Our election should be constitutionally sound, not politically expedient.”
In addition to requesting that the election be declared invalid, Smith’s appeal requests that the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court prohibit chief-elect Baker from taking office until a decision is handed down in a federal district court case concerning the freedmen descendants’ tribal citizenship.
The appeal also asks that if the election is declared invalid, a new election date not be set until after a final decision is made about their citizenship — either by the courts or by a referendum.
If the court decides to hear Smith’s appeal, it must set its hearing schedule by Thursday. It is the only court with jurisdiction to hear Cherokee election appeals.
A member of Baker’s legal team said the chief-elect will be filing a response in tribal court, but as of 5 p.m., Tuesday, one had not been filed with the court clerk’s office.
A Smith campaign representative confirmed late Monday that the campaign’s Tahlequah office on U.S. 62 closed during the weekend due to the expiration of the facility’s lease. The campaign’s Tulsa office, located in the Kendall-Whittier district, is also closed.
Baker has announced his inauguration for Nov. 6.
Chad Smith (left) and Bill John Baker (right). Tulsa World File