OKMULGEE — Citing questionable ballot security, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court has vacated all results from the tribe’s Sept. 21 primary election, including those for principal chief and other races.
After sitting in on a recount of absentee ballots, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court declared the results of the Sept. 21 primary “null and void” and ordered that a new election for all 10 races be scheduled within 60 days without former Principal Chief George Tiger’s name on the ballot.
In the full order, issued late Wednesday, the justices ruled that the election board did not provide sufficient documentation to guarantee that the boxes storing absentee ballots were properly secured.
Additionally, one of the boxes, when opened in front of the justices Wednesday morning, had broken security straps inside that Election Board members could not explain.
“The Election Board was unable to show any record evidencing a chain of custody for the individual transfer cases, or any other documentation, memorandum, affidavit or otherwise explaining access to previously sealed absentee ballot transfer cases,” Chief Justice Andrew Adams wrote for the four-judge majority.
Justice Leah Harjo-Ware abstained from the ruling.
Along with the office of principal chief, eight National Council seats and second chief were on the primary ballot. According to previously certified results, three National Council seats and the office of second chief were decided outright on Sept. 21.
The tribe’s Election Board has indicated its plans to ask the court to reconsider.
“It’s like the other election never happened,” Muscogee (Creek) Nation Election Board Chairman Nelson Harjo Jr., said through a spokeswoman.
The ruling comes less than 48 hours after the tribe’s attorney general, Kevin Dellinger, moved to intervene in an election challenge from Lucian Tiger III.
Lucian Tiger III, speaker of the National Council, finished third among the principal chief candidates, trailing second-place finisher Bim Stephen Bruner by 10 votes, with the top two finishers advancing to the Nov. 2 general election. Lucian Tiger, of Jenks, had requested a recount and on Friday filed a petition for fraud and irregularities that took aim at the inclusion of George Tiger on the ballot, among other issues. The two are not related.
Second Speaker David Hill and Bruner finished first and second among 10 candidates to succeed Principal Chief James Floyd in the Sept. 21 primary.
Hill, a resident of Bristow, received 1,272 votes, or 25.44%, while Bruner received 1,039 votes, or 20.78%.
Despite pleading guilty to one count of bribery in federal court eight days before Election Day, George Tiger finished eighth among the 10 candidates, receiving 135 votes. The tribe’s constitution bars felons from serving as principal chief.
In a written statement posted to social media Wednesday afternoon, Lucian Tiger thanked the court for invalidating the primary results.
“Our citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation rely on our leadership to deliver and certify election results they can trust,” he said. “On behalf of our citizens, I led the effort to bring voting irregularities into question and to request a recount of the absentee ballot votes. Additionally, Attorney General Kevin Dellinger also brought issues to light.
“Today, our Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court oversaw the recount of the absentee ballot votes and found discrepancies. They have now called for a new primary election. I stand strong for our citizens to ensure their selection of the Principal Chief of our great nation is not compromised.”
Meanwhile, Bruner issued a statement saying he is “humbled to have received the second highest number of votes on election night and am confident in the validity of those votes.”
“I am disappointed by the effort to reject the will of the 5,016 Creeks who voted. … This is the kind of action that causes people to lose faith in the process and to stay home on Election Day.”
Hill could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.