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Election Board appointees getting to work


Shannon Shaw Duty

The Osage Nation Election Board appointees have met twice since being appointed July 13 and are getting familiar with the Nation’s election laws and hammering out qualifications they will look for in an election supervisor.

“Basically we’ve all got copies of the [Election law] and we’ve been going through that, copies of the constitution . . . we’ve gone through the government reform regulations they had [in 2006], gone through protocol and procedures with working with congress,” said Sarah Oberly, Election Board appointee. “We’ve pretty much been getting ourselves oriented in what our duties are and what’s expected of us.”

Oberly, along with Walter Hopper Jr., Shannon Pease Lockett, Dr. Joe Conner and Martha Spotted Bear are the five appointments Congress will consider in the upcoming Tzi-Zho session. Conner and Spotted Bear have replaced Judy Neff and Judy Wilson who resigned due to time constraints, said Hepsi Barnett, Chief of Staff.

The appointees plan to hold their first public meeting in approximately two weeks but a date hasn’t been finalized yet, Oberly said. But once the board gets going the public meetings will be held weekly.

Currently the board is compiling a budget to present to Congress next month to hire the appropriate staff to conduct the June 7, 2010 election. They are also finalizing the date to hire the election supervisor and the date of when that supervisor begins.

“We want [the election supervisor] to start by Nov. 1,” Oberly said. “We’re going to take applications through Oct. 15, and that could change if we need to have them start sooner. That’s going to give us over a month to advertise and get the best candidate we can.”

There was some confusion among Congress members when Chief Gray sent five names for the election board for Congress to consider because the election law states that the Chief shall appoint three to the board and name two alternates and the Congress shall confirm three.

“The law doesn’t define what the role of the alternate will be,” Barnett said. “[The appointees] are still deciding what role the alternate is going to be and once the role is decided they’ll make their recommendation to Chief Gray.”

Barnett said a power struggle developed among the board members and alternates in 2006 with the Government Reform board and that struggle became a real controversy. So much so that the 31st Tribal Council had to make a resolution, at the board’s request, to instate the alternates as board members.

Oberly and the other election board appointees want to avoid any controversy. She said that the general consensus among the five appointees is that they should all be on the board but she understands it’s the law.

“We have decided that it doesn’t matter who the members or the alternates are because we’ve decided that the five of us are going to be working together as a board to have this election come off as good as it can be,” Oberly said.

According to the election law, candidates running for Principal Chief, Assistant Principal Chief and the six positions for Congress can only file their candidacies between the dates of March 15 and April 1 of next year.

To run for Chief and Assistant Chief a person must be 35 years old at the date of the election, which will be held June 7, 2010, and has never been convicted of a felony. Once elected those two individuals can’t hold any other office, position of profit under the Nation or hold any office, elected or appointed, under any other tribal government, state, county or federal government, according to the law.

To run for Congress a person must be at least 25 years old at the date of the election and has never been convicted of a felony. Once a member they cannot hold any other office or position of profit under the Nation during the term the member is elected or appointed. No member shall hold any other tribal office under another Indian nation during his or her term in office, according to the law.

Members of Congress were concerned that when Chief Gray named the election board appointments with less than a year to the election, he might have jeopardized the results.

“We have a lot of time,” Oberly said. “I am very confident that we’ve got plenty of time to have a fair election.”

Original Publish Date: 2009-08-14 00:00:00


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Shannon Shaw Duty
Shannon Shaw Duty is the editor of the Osage News. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a master's degree in Legal Studies, Indigenous Peoples Law from the OU College of Law. She served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) from 2013-2016 and served as a board member and Chairwoman for the Pawhuska Johnson O’Malley Parent Committee from 2017-2020. She is a Chips Quinn Scholar, a former instructor for the Freedom Forum’s Native American Journalism Career Conference and the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute. She is a former reporter for The Santa Fe New Mexican. She is a 2012 recipient of the Native American 40 Under 40 from the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED). In 2014 she helped lead the Osage News to receive the Elias Boudinot Free Press Award, NAJA’s highest honor. An Osage tribal member, she and her family are from the Grayhorse District. She currently resides in Pawhuska, Okla., with her husband and six children.

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