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Cherokee Nation Working to Improve Elections

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The Cherokee Nation is working extensively to shore up its election process in preparation for the upcoming special election. An issue that has been brought to the Nation’s attention with the recent tribal chief elections between Chief Chad Smith and challenger Bill John Baker.

In the June 25 election, the results were too close between the candidates that a recount was ordered. After multiple recounts that saw the numbers flip at times favoring Smith and then Baker, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court threw out the polls and ordered a special election to take place.

It was recently announced that a special meeting of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council is scheduled for August 5 at the request of Meredith Frailey, speaker of the council, to address potential changes to the election law, consideration of appointments, including a new election commissioner to replace a commissioner who resigned.

"It is important to avoid the level of confusion during the upcoming special elections experienced in the recent general election," Frailey said in a press release. "We need to approve the appointment of Susan Plumb as our new election commissioner as quickly as possible. We also need to give the election commission clear legislative guidance on how to address the process issues that arose in the last election. Our Cherokee people deserve to know that this election will be administered more efficiently and effectively than the previous election. Chief Smith agreed to schedule this special meeting at my request so the council can effect needed changes in a timely manner prior to this special election."

At a meeting on July 12, the council approved measures for a third party organization to handle the tribal elections. But the measures were not incorporated during the recent run-off elections on July 23.

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“A third party was not used for the run-off election. The commission believed the systems in place are more than adequate to assure a competent election of our officials,” said Lloyd Cole, independent counsel for the Cherokee Nation Election Commission.

Results of the run-off election were:

Deputy Principal Chief – S. Joe Crittenden (6,748 votes) def. Chris Lee Soap (5,706 votes)

District 1, Seat 3 – David Walkingstick (1,886 votes) def. Mark Vance (827 votes)

District 2, Seat 3 – Jodie Fishinghawk (1,795 votes) def. Harley Buzzard (990 votes)

District 4, Seat 2 – Dick Lay (812 votes) def. Bradley Cobb (732 votes)