TULSA, OK – The heavily disputed election for Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation remains undecided after another unofficial recount and another court hearing. The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court still needs two more days to decide what to do next.
Under Cherokee law, after a Supreme Court hearing is over, the Court has two days to make a decision. At the end of Tuesday's hearing, the Court said it would use the two days.
Tuesday night incumbent Chad Smith asked the Court to certify the results from the latest unofficial recount last weekend that showed him winning by five votes. But the Court said all along, and again Tuesday night, that the unofficial recount was nothing more than a fact-finding activity.
Challenger Bill John Baker's attorneys argued Tuesday that the unofficial recount showed there were dozens of questionable ballots counted, some with eraser marks, others with whiteout marks, and some absentee ballot envelopes that were not properly sealed or signed by a notary public.
Baker is asking the court for a completely new election altogether.
The Court questioned whether it was possible to get a new election completed within the next 30 days. A Cherokee Nation Election Commission attorney told the Court it is possible. Cherokee law states the new Principal Chief is supposed to be sworn into office on August 14th, something that becomes less likely with every passing day.
There was also discussion about how a new election would be different so the same problems didn't arise. Baker's attorneys asked the Court to lay out specific rules and parameters to avoid fraud, confusion or any other problems. The Court had concerns those duties could be outside its legal power. Under Cherokee law, if the Court decides a new election is necessary it's required to inform the Election Commission, which then informs the Principal Chief, who then officially orders the election and sets the date, time and other rules. In this case, that would be Smith, which could be a conflict of interest as he is one of the candidates in the election.
After the hearing, both candidates seemed confident they would win if the Court does decide to order a new election. And supporters on both sides seemed to hear what they wanted to hear, saying they thought their candidate's side did a better job arguing their points.