Back to the ballot box for Muscogee Creek Nation after ‘invalidated’ election
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Election Board is moving forward with plans to hold a new primary election after the tribe’s Supreme Court voted to nullify the Sept. 21 results.
Two petitions were filed after the election, the first claiming fraud and irregularities in the voting process. The second petition requested a recount of the absentee ballots for the candidates for the Office of the Principal Chief.
In the Oct. 2 decision, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court stated that a seal on an absentee ballot box had been tampered with and no election board representative could account for the action even though the ballot boxes were stored at the Lighthorse Police Department under a 24-hour surveillance.
“After consulting with legal counsel, the election board has decided not to file a motion to reconsider the Supreme Court decision and to move forward with holding a new primary election within 60 days,” said Nelson Harjo Jr., election board manager.
Holding the new election will cost approximately $60,000, he said.
“The election board is going to introduce new internal proceedings and train staff on how to track the movement of ballots from each precinct,” he said.
The new primary election will take place on Nov. 2.
The 2019 election is one of the biggest races in the tribe’s history, according to candidate Brenda Golden. Ten candidates announced their intention to run for the position of principal chief in July.
“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court invalidated the entire election,” said Golden, who did not make the runoff for principal chief in the now invalidated election results. She started campaigning in November last year and invested a lot of her own money.
“I put a lot of my heart and soul into my campaign and gave up a lot of things up in order to participate,” she said. Golden’s name will remain on the ballot, but she says she will not actively campaign moving forward.
This year’s election has 36 candidates vying for principal chief, second chief, and eight seats on the Muscogee (Creek) National Council. The council represents eight districts with two seats in each district: Creek, McIntosh, Muskogee, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Tukvpvtce, Tulsa, and Wagoner.
For candidate Dode Barnett, who is running for the Creek District, she views the decision as a second chance. She came in third with only 100 votes separating her from the second candidate. Three candidates are running in her district.
“It was pretty close and now I don’t have to wait two to four years to get another shot at it,” said Barnett.
The two petitions, which led to the Supreme Court decision, were filed by Lucian Tiger III who finished third among the principal chief candidates. Lucian Tiger III trailed second-place finisher Bim Stephen Bruner by a small margin.
The top two candidates in each race will advance to the general election scheduled for Dec. 14.
The new ballot will not include Principal Chief George Tiger who plead guilty to one count of bribery in federal court eight days before Election Day. He waived his right to a jury trial. His sentence date has not been set. His name was on the original ballot even though the tribe’s constitution bars felons from serving as principal chief.
Ginny Underwood is a communication consultant based in Yukon, Oklahoma. She is a member of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma.