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Citizen Potawatomi vote changes government structure

SHAWNEE, Okla. - Citizen Potawatomi Nation members voted by an overwhelming majority Aug. 16 to pass the constitutional revision that will completely change the structure of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation government from an existing five-member Business Committee to a 16-member Legislature.

According to a CPN press release, the final, unofficial vote tally was 1,806 yes votes and 374 no votes; 82.84 percent of voters voted yes. The results met the criterion that at least 30 percent of registered voters cast a vote. The 2,180 who voted represent 65.7 percent of the 3,318 who were registered to vote.

''We are elated that it passed with such a landslide,'' Linda Capps, vice chairman and Business Committee member, said of the vote. ''We are hoping for an easy transition; however, there is a lot to do.''

''We are looking forward to it because it's exciting; representation in the regions is something we have wanted for a long time, and that's something our people want and they deserve that,'' she said.

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Currently, the entire Business Committee serves as a legislature. Three of the five Business Committee members serve as the nation's executive committee: the chairman, vice chairman and the secretary/treasurer. Under the new revision, those three, along with the two other Business Committee members, will be part of the new Legislature. Tribal officials plan a subsequent constitutional amendment to move them out of the Legislature into a solely administrative branch of the tribal government, the release said.

The CPN believes it is the first nation to extend its jurisdiction to all its tribal members regardless of where they live in United States. There are currently 26,764 CPN members, of which 16,634 live outside Oklahoma, who will now be able to participate and influence the governmental process of their nation. In addition, this revision provides a policy for a three-branch government that will provide checks and balances for each branch of government. The revision also removes the U.S. Interior Department Secretary's authority to veto proposed changes in the CPN constitution.

Mandated by the new constitutional revision, the existing Business Committee had until Aug. 26 to finalize the eight new legislative districts outside of Oklahoma. In addition, the new legislator elections must be held within 120 days for 11 legislators - three additional in Oklahoma and one from each of the new eight districts.