By Tim Eberly
Despite low voter registration, the Chippewa Cree tribal council will go forward with a secretarial election March 6 on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.
The election, which could result in several changes to the Chippewa Cree Tribe's constitution and bylaws, will be conducted by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs at the request of the tribal council.
About 350 voters are registered for the election, which will be held at Stone Child College from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Chippewa Cree tribal council postponed the election, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 22, for almost five months in order to bolster voter turnout.
"We're going to go forward with whatever number of registered voters we can get," said James Montes, the Bureau of Indian Affairs field representative at Rocky Boy.
Only 299 adult enrolled members of the tribe had registered for the election when the council decided to postpone it. Though that number has increased slightly, it is far below the number of eligible voters.
"Anywhere between 1,200 and 1,500 registered voters would be the ideal," Montes said.
About 1,200 Rocky Boy residents cast votes in the November 2000 tribal election.
Since adopting a constitution and bylaws in 1935, the Chippewa Cree Tribe has only amended it with a secretarial election once in 1972.
Montes has said the election is the result of several years of public meetings, meetings with the tribal council, and meetings with the tribal election board.
The proposed amendments include shortening the length of time ousted incumbents retain their seat following an election.
Tribal members also will vote on whether to increase the severity of penalties that can be handed down in Tribal Court, redefine the reasons members can be disallowed from running for tribal office, and limit the reasons that a person can lose tribal membership.
Moving the primary election from June to October will also be considered.
Registration for secretarial and tribal elections are independent. Only a tribal identification is required at voting booths for a tribal election while the secretarial election requires potential voters to fill out a one-page form prior to a specified registration deadline.
All enrolled members of the tribe 18 years of age or older are eligible to vote. Voter registration is being conducted by Montes at the BIA office at Rocky Boy Agency.