Monday, May 18, 2009

Tribal Court Rules That Election Code's Voting Procedure Is Constitutional

By Ken Davison
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The common complaint from many Tribal members about being forced to vote for candidates they do not want to vote for in order for their ballot to be counted was deemed to be constitutional, according to a Tribal Court ruling issued today.

Judge Jane Freeman agreed with the Tribal Election Committee and the Tribe that the requirement of voting for all seats up for election, as opposed to voting for fewer than the number of seats up for election, upholds a governmental objective of ensuring tribal cohesiveness and to prevent voting along family lines.

The plaintiff in the case, Kenneth Davison, asserted that tribal members should be able to vote for only candidates that they prefer even if it is less than the number of positions up for election and that requiring members to vote for more candidates than they prefer is, among other things, a violation of free speech rights.

Davison argued in court that voting for more candidates than a tribal member prefers in order to have a ballot considered valid dilutes the members' vote for the candidates they really preferred and places a severe burden on the right to vote. Had the judge taken Davison's viewpoint, the Tribal government would have had to have shown a compelling government interest in the election procedure and not simply a legitimate interest.

Davison filed the case in Tribal Court last September. Since then, the Tribal Court denied the Tribal government's motion to dismiss the case but, in the latest decision issued today, ruled for the Tribal government's motion for a summary judgment.