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Mescalero Apache Tribe, New Mexico

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A petition to recall tribal President Sara Misquez failed to gain enough valid signatures, but petition organizers are crying foul. Under the tribal constitution, signatures of more than 25 percent of the tribe's 1,949 eligible voters, or at least 487 voters, were needed to force the recall. In an Oct. 6 news release, Council Secretary Dorlynn Simmons said the week after the petition was submitted Sept. 28, she received more than 65 written statements from tribal members who said they mistakenly signed the petition. She said some said they signed a petition calling for the annual distribution of a dividend check, that some signatures were duplicated, some from ineligible voters and some were illegible. Organizers contend many tribal members were intimidated or harassed by Misquez supporters into disavowing their signatures. Tribal attorney John Wheeler said, "At no time was anyone induced to remove their names from the petition." Organizers circulated two petitions, one on recall and the other seeking a dividend distribution. None of the signature sheets carried a heading explaining the petition's purpose, but organizers said a cover sheet explained the intent. Critics of Misquez filed a motion in federal court in Las Cruces seeking a court order to force the tribal council to schedule a recall election.