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As the 2016 Congressional election nears, ON Congress passes revised election code


Benny Polacca

The 2016 election season will proceed with the Osage Nation following a revised election code and rules and regulations for governing the general election activities.

Prospective Osage candidates may start filing for candidacy with the ON Election Office in Pawhuska starting on March 15 and the deadline to file is March 31. Six Congress seats are up for grabs in the June 6 general election. Voters will also consider any proposed Constitutional amendment questions on the ballot.

On Feb. 24, the Fourth ON Congress unanimously passed the revised election code (ONCA 15-76) and a resolution (ONCR 15-19) during the 12th special session, which made amendments to both governing documents for Osage elections. The Election Board reviewed the election code and rules after the 2014 election and made revisions to certain sections based on feedback regarding the last election. The election code also received amendments from the Congressional governmental operations committee, which held meetings on the two items during the special session.

To run in the Congressional election, candidates must be enrolled Osages who are at least 25 years old on Election Day and the candidates must not have any felony convictions on their record, according to the election code. Those who run for Congress must also pay a $300 filing fee to the Election Office with a cashier’s check or money order, according to the election rules/ regulations and will be subject to a background check.

The election code also says Congress members “shall not hold any other office or position of profit under the Nation during the term for which the member is elected or appointed. No members of the (Congress) shall hold any other tribal office under another Indian nation during his or her term of office.”

Changes for election code, rules considered

Starting in the 2018 election year, the primary election will be held on the first Monday in April in even-numbered years when there is an election for the offices of Principal Chief and Assistant Principal Chief. The first primary election was held in March 2014, so the April primary will be one month closer to the general election, if necessary, said Election Supervisor Alexis Rencountre.

Congressman James Norris said he spoke with the Election Board last year and agreed to sponsor the revised election code and rules legislation if a proposed Congressional primary election was eliminated. The board previously discussed a possible primary for the Congress seats during its meetings. The election code states a primary election for Executive Branch offices will not be held if two or fewer candidates file by the filing deadline, so those candidates will advance to the June election ballot.

The Election Board initially considered adding language to the election code forbidding banished Osages from voting in the election, but later requested the language be removed from the bill after hearing feedback from other officials. Election Board Chairwoman Lockett said the board considered prohibiting banished people from voting to match Osage law since the punishment banishes those subjects from properties and lands under Osage Nation jurisdiction. In past elections, the election polling places were at the Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center, Congressional Chambers and the Election Office for early voting – all owned by the Nation. 

Congressman Ron Shaw proposed the banishment language be stricken and recalled earlier discussions including questions of whether forbidding banished people from voting is constitutional. “One of the arguments that came was can these people vote by absentee ballot and still be able to vote, just not in-person?” Shaw recalled.

Assistant Attorney General Clint Patterson opined on the issue during a regular board meeting on Feb. 9 and said voting is a fundamental right. Norris also agreed and said: “(Voting is) not a benefit, it’s a right, it cannot be taken away unless the constitution changes.”

According to the Osage Constitution, qualified voters are defined as enrolled Osages who are 18 years old and registered to vote under the tribal code. The constitution does not prohibit those who are convicted felons or currently incarcerated from voting. Therefore, those who are in the penal system or who are banished from the Nation’s jurisdiction are allowed to vote by absentee ballot.   

The election code also contains new guidelines for village elections, which are held biennially in the Pawhuska and Hominy Indian villages. The Grayhorse Indian Village Committee (also called a Five-Man Board) is appointed by the Principal Chief and confirmed by the Congress, said Lockett.

For village elections, the villages or Village Committees, language is now in the election code regarding eligible voters. In recent years, the Election Office and board assisted in the two villages elections and the practices are now written in the law. The election code says the committees or villages “may seek the assistance of other government entities to conduct their election as long as those elections are not inconsistent with the (Osage constitution or law)” and the village committees “shall submit a list of all village voters” prior to conducting village elections.

The revised election code and rules/ regulations were passed then signed by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear to take effect. For more information on the Election Office, election code and rules/ regulations for prospective candidates, visit the office website at www.osagenation-nsn.gov/what-we-do/elections

Original Publish Date: 2016-03-02 00:00:00


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Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org
Benny Polacca started at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter and has covered various stories and events impacting the Osage Nation and Osage people. Polacca is part of the News team awarded the Native American Journalist Association’s Elias Boudinot Free Press Award in 2014 and other NAJA Media Awards and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter awards for news coverage and photography. Polacca is an Arizona State University graduate and participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. He previously worked at The Forum newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. region as the weeknight reporter.

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