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Election protests denied

Scott Csernyik

1/21/2003 12:00:00 AM

Two protests levied against the Jan. 7 special election for a District 1 seat on Tribal Council were denied by an election appeals judge.

In her Jan. 16 ruling, Judge Vanya S. Hogen found the protesters failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that there was a violation of election procedures that had an actual and material effect on the outcome of the special election.

The protests were filed on Jan. 10 by Mary Alice Perez and Dolly Rueckert-both candidates in the election. Under Ordinance No. 4, only candidates for office or voters in the election may file election protests.

The protest filed by Mary Alice Perez alleged the Tribal Clerk "did fraudulently present a registered voter list of November 2002 as a registered voters list of January 2003."

"The Tribal clerk did not allow 14 Tribal members the same privilege as the above mentioned Tribal members and were denied their right to vote," she stated. "These 14 votes in a fair and honest election would have clearly and convincingly affected the outcome of this election."

Rueckert's protest stated that she felt the "Tribal Clerk and the Caucus Committee members did not implement proper voting procedures for this election to ensure a fair and honest outcome."

Her protest mentioned a District 1 Tribal member who was denied his right to vote.

"In the written protests and at the hearing, both protestors made several allegations about Tribal members being improperly denied the right to vote," stated Hogen. "For instance, the Perez protest alleged that 14 Tribal members were not permitted to vote and the Rueckert protest questioned whether other Tribal members were also denied the right to vote. At the hearing, however, the protesters refined their allegations. It became clear that other than some persons who were not on the voter registration list at all and whom no one alleged should have been permitted to vote, there were only 13 potential voters turned away from the polls.

"Of those, the protesters did not contest that some of them were properly prohibited from voting, either because they did not present proper identification or were not registered to vote."

The protesters alleged the Tribal clerk and the Caucus Committee violated election procedures by not allowing persons who had moved within District 1 after the voter registration cutoff to vote.

"Under Ordinance No. 4, however, a voter's registration is only valid until that voter moves, whether within or without the voting district," Hogen stated. "Thus, in turning away potential voters who had apparently moved within District 1 between the time they registered to vote and the date of the special election, the Tribal Clerk and the Caucus Committee were simply enforcing the applicable law as written and their actions did not constitute a violation of election procedures."

Perez also contended the Tribal Clerk had violated election procedures by informing one voter when completing the Tribal Verification Form she should use her "old" address, the one under which she had registered to vote rather than her "new" address, so that she could still vote in the special election.

"Had Ms. Perez been able to demonstrate that the Tribal Clerk had adopted a policy of allowing voters to use their "old" addresses, i.e., those under which they had registered to vote, when voting, even if they had moved, it may well have been a violation of the Tribe's election procedures for her not to have given reasonable notice of this policy to all voters," explained Hogen.

Perez also alleged the Tribal Clerk violated the Tribe's election procedures by failing to issue new voter registration cards whenever a Tribal member registered to vote.

"No testimony or evidence was presented to show that this failure to issue cards when required led to any person being denied the right to vote," ruled Hogen.