Could a person get elected to the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council with just one vote?’ Would it surprise you if the answer is yes? The Cherokee Nation constitution says the seat of a council member whose seat is vacated by ‘removal, death, resignation or disability’ will be filled ‘by the candidate having the next highest number of votes in that district, who is available to serve and whose eligibility is confirmed by the Election Commission. (see Article 6, section 13)
In 2007, 5 council members received at least 73% or more of the vote. If any of them were to meet an untimely demise, someone who was rejected by 3 out of 4 voters would take a seat on the tribal council.
In an extreme, case, you could look at the 2007 election of Meredith Frailey, who ran unopposed. The way the Constitution is written, if she had an opponent, and that opponent went to the polls and voted for themselves and lost 615-1, then guess what? That person would automatically become a tribal council member if anything happened to Frailey, regardless of that fact that they received only one vote.
On the June 25 ballot, Cherokees have a chance to change the law on this. The proposed Constitutional amendment says that if there is a year or more left on the term, and no general election is scheduled within 120 days, then a special election must be held within 90 days. If there is one year or less, the council has to elect a replacement to fill the rest of the term.
If the Constitutional amendment fails, we could possibly see two new candidates sworn in. If Baker wins as Chief and resigns from the Council, Barbara Dawes Martens could take his seat for the next two years. She finished second in the last election for that seat, winning 36% of the vote. If Crittenden wins as Deputy Chief and resigns, Rita Bunch would be put on the council, since she finished second with 43% of the vote. That is assuming those two candidates still live in those districts and are eligible.
We don’t know if Bunch or Martens would be good council members or not, but the truth is that voters did not elect them when they had a chance, so it seems a little odd to put them into office anyway, just because they finished second in a two person election.
A yes vote on the Constitutional Amendment is a vote in favor of the change, and it keeps 2nd place candidates from automatically joining the tribal council. A no vote means we keep things the same way.
Tomorrow: Candidate guest blog!