Next month, Osage voters will be asked two questions on the March 20 special election ballot and will also have early voting days on March 17 and 18 to vote in-person.
Voters may also cast absentee ballots, but those must be completed in a filled-out absentee ballot request form provided by the Osage Nation Election Office. The deadline to request absentee ballots for the special election is Feb. 13.
On the ballot, one question asks voters whether the Nation’s tribal law should recognize same-sex marriages and the other question asks whether to amend the Osage Constitution regarding the annual government budget.
On Jan. 6, the ON Election Board took several actions to approve business items regarding the special election, including approving language for the questions on the ballot. The ON Attorney General’s Office drafted the ballot questions for the election board’s consideration.
Election Supervisor Alexis Rencountre said the office is receiving absentee ballot requests, but did not have the number of received requests at the meeting. She said the Election Office will start mailing out absentee ballots on Feb. 14 – the day after the deadline to request them.
Downloadable absentee ballot request forms and other election information, including address change forms and a sample ballot are available online at: www.osagenation-nsn.gov/what-we-do/elections
Election Board Chairwoman Shannon Lockett said it’s important voters make sure they mail the completed ballots back in the provided envelope to the Pawhuska Post Office to be counted by March 20. On that day, the election officials will retrieve the absentee ballots at the post office to be counted.
In past election years, some people used FedEx or UPS to rush delivery of their absentee ballots by election day, but those ballots won’t be counted and will be considered void, Lockett said. The election day poll will be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the former Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center building at 1449 W. Main St. in Pawhuska, so no election officials will be available at the office that day.
On Friday March 17 and Saturday March 18, voters will have early voting opportunities in-person at the ON Election Office at 608 Kihekah in Pawhuska. March 17 voting hours are noon-8 p.m. and March 18 voting hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Proposed same-sex marriage question
According to ballot language approved by the Election Board, the proposed question reads: “Shall the definition of marriage in the Osage Nation Code at Chapter 2 of Title 9 on Domestic Relations be amended?”
If approved, Osage law defining marriage will be changed to read: “Marriage is a personal relation between two persons arising out of a civil contract to which the consent of parties legally competent of contracting and of entering into it is necessary, and the marriage relation shall only be entered into, maintained or abrogated as provided by law.”
An accompanying stated purpose for this question reads: “The purpose of this amendment is to protect the fundamental right to marry regardless of the genders involved in the relationship.”
Proposed constitutional amendment question
The proposed question in regards to the Osage government budgets asks: “Shall Article VI Section 24 of the Osage Nation Constitution be amended to add language providing for a constitutionally mandated law governing the annual budgetary and appropriation process?”
If approved, the Constitution article and section for the Osage legislature and annual budget will change to read: “The Osage Nation shall enact, by law, an annual expenditure of funds which shall include an appropriation of operating funds for each branch of the government for each fiscal year. The annual budget of the Osage Nation shall be governed by the principles of transparency and accountability, and the budgetary process encompassing those principles shall be set forth in Osage law. The annual budget shall not exceed projected revenues.”
The accompanying purpose states: “The purpose of this amendment is to promote transparency and accountability in the appropriation of monies and allows for a constitutionally sound budget law, which sets forth a uniform process in the consideration of the annual budget appropriation.”
For more information on the special election, the ON Election Office can be reached at (918) 287-5286 or toll-free at (877) 560-5286.