The Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Elections Board has invalidated the recent elections and ordered that yet another election be held for tribal chair.
In a letter to Ken Blatt St. Marks, the candidate who finished first in the elections, the board’s attorney, Lynn Fagan of Missoula, said the results were overturned because some people were allowed to vote with photocopied Certification of Indian Blood documents instead of laminated documents as required by the a law passed by voters in November.
The Election Board allowed people to vote with the photocopied documents, but now admits its mistake, Fagan said in the letter.
St. Marks said the few people who voted with photocopied ID would not have changed the results of the election. He won by more than 100 votes over second-place finisher Rick Morsette, the acting tribal chair.
He said he would protest the decision in tribal court, and if that fails, he will go to the United State government and insist that officials fulfill their trust responsibilities to Native Americans and uphold the election results.
St. Marks said he is the legitimate chair of the tribal council.
On Election Day, St. Marks said, people were turned away if they did not have the proper documents and told to go to the tribal office to get new ones. But the lamination machine at tribal headquarters had broken down, so they were given photocopied documents, he said.
That was the case in a number of prisoners at the Rocky Boy detention center, who cast ballots, Fagan said.
St. Marks’ wife was a poll watcher on Election Day, and she said at least half of the 19 prisoners who voted had the required laminated documents.
Fagan’s letter said the protest was filed with the election board by a defeated candidate, but did not say which of St. Mars’ four foes filed the objections.
St. Marks said he believes it was Morsette.
St. Marks said the disputed votes should be counted, and if they are not, he still would have won the election.
Fagan said she did not know when the new election would be held, but all of the candidates would be notified.
Politics at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation have been in tumult for more than a year since St. Marks was elected chair.
After serving a couple of months, St. Marks was removed by the tribal council. St. Marks’ supporters contend that the action violated several clauses in the tribal constitution.
Plans were announced for a new election, but voting was delayed because of disputes over whether St, Marks was eligible to run.
Finally, Tribal Court Justice Donna Running Wolf ruled in St. Marks favor, the election was held and St. Marks won.
St. Marks said the Rocky Boy political establishment opposes his candidacy because he has been working with federal prosecutors in ferreting out corruption in tribal government.
He said they will stop at nothing to prevent him from assuming office.
While this protest was upheld, the election panel rejected a second protest, that the board should have ruled St. Marks off the ballot before the election, was invalid.
In her letter to St. Marks, Fagan asked that all communications with the elections board be conducted through her.
“The Election Board has been verbally harassed and physically threatened by disgruntled candidates and their families in the past and refuse to be subject to this type of behavior,” she said.
Future threats, she said, will be dealt with through tribal court, she said.