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Citizen Potawatomi prepares for vote on constitutional revision

SHAWNEE, Okla. - Members of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation will vote Aug. 16 on a proposed constitutional revision that would make sweeping changes in the nation's government structure.

The constitutional revision would create a 16-member CPN Legislature to replace the existing five-member Business Committee. It would also grant legislative representation to nation members who live outside of Oklahoma.

Under the current constitution, all CPN members may participate in elections via absentee ballot or in-person voting. They do not, however, have representation if they live outside Oklahoma.

If approved, the new legislation would give the 16,634 tribal members who live outside of the state - more than half the nation's members - full representation in the governmental process. It would also mandate the current Business Committee to adopt legislation within 10 days after the election to formally outline eight new legislative districts, outside of Oklahoma, that are equally apportioned (within 30 percent) by population in the remaining states.

District 1 will include the northeastern part of the United States, from Maine to Virginia over to and including Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota. District 2 includes the southeastern United States, including Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana. District 3 includes all of Texas except the southwestern corner. District 4 includes the southwestern tip of Texas, all of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and the southern tip of Nevada. District 5 will be the southern third of California. District 6 includes the northern two-thirds of California and most of Nevada. District 7 includes North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington state. District 8 will be the state of Kansas.

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The new legislation also mandates an election of the new legislators to be held 120 days after the Aug. 16 election. The new legislators will be referred to as the ''Tribal Legislature'' and will serve four-year terms.

For the amendment to be ratified, 50 percent plus one of those voting must vote in favor of it; additionally, 30 percent of those who are registered to vote must cast a vote. If approved, legislators would participate in meetings via teleconferencing, with monitors set up to enable representatives to participate.

At the recent CPN festival, CPN member Ed Burns of Colorado said the proposed revision ''may be difficult at first, but will be worth the sacrifice.'' Burns stated that he is considering running for representative for District 4 if the revision is passed.

CPN member Amy Rose Herrick, of Topeka, Kan., said that ''a tremendous amount of thought and effort and insight has gone into this [revision] along with wisdom in building the tribe for the future and for the benefit of the entire nation, because they are not trying to just keep resources in Shawnee - this is really to help spread it throughout the nation membership, which just happens to be across the country.'' Herrick is also considering throwing her hat into the ring and running for representative in District 8.

For more information, visit the CPN Web site at www.potawatomi.org.