Friday, September 12, 2008

Election Committee Responds To Two Complaints

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Updated with full names

The Election Committee responded to two formal complaints yesterday brought by two tribal members. Neither complaint faulted the Election Committee for anything but rather requested the Election Committee to look into and resolve election-related matters that were beyond their control.

Both Ken Davison and Throws His Hatchet (a.k.a. Tom Epps, a.k.a. Hatchet) believe that the section of the election ordinance that requires tribal members to vote for all elective positions in an election is inconsistent with the Mohegan Constitution. Both Davison and Hatchet state that the election law forces tribal members to vote for candidates that they don't want to vote for. The Election Committee said they did not hold hearings on that topic yesterday since the Election Committee cannot decide Constitutional matters. Both were told that they could follow the election code and have the opportunity to seek redress if they file their complaints in tribal court within seven days.

As you know, the tribal court is not an independent court and the judge's contract is renewed by the Tribal Council.

Davison selected three candidates on his ballot but the ballot was declared not valid because four candidates were not selected as required by the election ordinance. "I can't imagine that the Constitution's intent is to force tribal members to vote for candidates that a voter doesn't want to vote for but the election code (ordinance) mandates just that in its current form," according to Davison's complaint.

The Election Committee did, however, hold a hearing yesterday regarding Throws His Hatchet's complaint about the lack of access to the ballot box on the Friday afternoon (August 29) before the Sunday (August 31) Council of Elders election.

Three of the five tribal members that serve on the Election Committee swore in Throws His Hatchet around 4:30 yesterday while 18 tribal members watched the proceedings. Also present was Sandra Eichelberg, who taped the proceedings, and Wuskuso newsletter staff member Nancy Trimble. No members of the Tribal Council or Council of Elders were present at the hearing. Presumably, the Council of Elders did not attend because they have judicial responsibilities and Tribal Councilors did not attend because they could have been called as witnesses over the office closing.

Tribal government employees were sent home early on the afternoon of Friday, August 29th, because it was Labor Day weekend and the doors to the building were locked, according to Throws His Hatchet.

Tribal members were told specifically in a letter that accompanied their ballot mailing that the tribal government office, where the ballot box is located, would be open until 4:30 that Friday afternoon. Instead, the office was closed in the afternoon.

Throws His Hatchet did not call any witnesses and said he did not personally know of any tribal members that could not deliver their ballot. He did note one instance in which another tribal member told him of arriving at the building that Friday afternoon and finding someone to unlock the door so that the tribal member could put his ballot in the ballot box. Throws His Hatchet said that nobody knows how many tribal members were denied the right to vote on that Friday afternoon.

According to the letter that accompanied the ballot mailing, tribal members were told that they could put their ballots in the ballot box until 4:30 on Friday, August 29, or hand deliver their ballots on Sunday morning, August 31, just before the ballot counting began.

The three members of the Election Committee - Gene Baker, Jim Gray and Joann Irwin - said they would study the matter and respond to Throws His Hatchet.