Catawba Indian Nation, South Carolina


A vote on a tribal constitution is invalid because too few voters cast ballots, tribal officials say. Only 293 tribal members voted May 18 and 19 to change the form of government for the first time in 25 years. Passage of a new constitution is required by a 1993 settlement that granted $50 million to the tribe, ending a 153-year-old land-claim dispute. It required participation by at least 30 percent eligible voters, or 430 ballots. The Executive Committee is to meet May 29 to decide whether to put the draft back out to a vote or revise the document. Ballots were delivered to the director of York County's Registration and Elections Office, but not counted. Some Catawbas said they want to know the outcome even if results won't be considered, a decision left to the Executive Committee. This was the second attempt at a new constitution. The first, distributed at the end of last year, met with criticism at informational meetings and was never put to a vote. There were objections to the transfer of most of the authority from the membership to the Executive Committee and inclusion of a clause that protects all contracts and enactments by current tribal leaders. There has been no General Council meeting since 1998.