The Osage Nation Election Office received 2,070 absentee ballot request forms to vote in the March 20 special election – a record increase of requests received from past elections.
On March 20, Osage voters will be asked two questions on the special election ballot: One question asks voters whether the Nation’s definition of marriage should include same-sex marriages in tribal law. The second question asks whether to amend the Osage Constitution regarding the annual government budget.
March 20 voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the former Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center, 1449 W. Main St. in Pawhuska. Early voting is also scheduled Friday March 17 (noon to 8 p.m.) and Saturday March 18 (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) at the ON Election Office, 608 Kihekah in Pawhuska.
Election Supervisor Alexis Rencountre said office staff processed the absentee ballot request forms and all of the absentee ballots were mailed out Feb. 14.
Rencountre said the 2,070 absentee ballot requests were received by the Feb. 13 deadline, which are 140 more than the 1,930 requests received to vote in the June 2016 general election.
The absentee ballots will arrive in a yellow envelope with “ballot enclosed” written across the front, according to the Election Office. There will also be instructions for marking and mailing the absentee ballot enclosed. Absentee voters should complete and mail their absentee ballot as soon as possible to ensure the ballot arrives at the Pawhuska Post Office by March 20 to be valid.
Rencountre said the office will post any special election-related updates and reminders to their “Osage Nation Election Office” Facebook page as the election nears. She said she also anticipates not all the requested absentee ballots will arrive by the Election Day deadline and noted voters who receive their absentee ballots are also permitted to vote in-person if they wish.
According to the election notice, absentee ballot voters who wish to vote in person will need to come to the poll on the three election days and they must bring their absentee ballot and surrender it to election staff. Next, they will be required to sign an affidavit stating they received an absentee ballot, but did not vote it.
The Election Office is also encouraging Osages to keep their individual mailing addresses up-to-date to receive notices and updates regarding upcoming elections and especially to be notified of crucial deadlines for future absentee voting.
As of Feb. 14, Rencountre said about 1,600 election notices were returned by the post office due to bad addresses for reasons including individuals moving without leaving a forwarding address. She said the office also kept busy processing 1,200 address updates due to the bad addresses.
Election Board Chairwoman Shannon Lockett said she was disappointed with the number of election notice returns, but said this illustrates that keeping a voter registry is a never-ending project.
According to the election office, eligible Osage voters are defined as adults 18 years old on or before Election Day and who possess an Osage Nation Membership Card on or after Oct. 9, 2002, which bears the signature of a Principal Chief.
For more information, the Election Office website is at www.osagenation-nsn.gov/what-we-do/elections and can be reached at (918) 287-5286.
*This story was updated on Feb. 17 to note that all absentee ballots were mailed on Feb. 14 despite an earlier issue with two ballots to be mailed overseas.