Community , Government

Election Board proposes amendments to election rules and regulations

The Osage Nation Election Board is continuing work on proposed amendments to the Nation’s election rules and law that governs the election process.

Like in previous years, the Election Board revisits the election code and rules for any potential changes to the governing documents to reflect issues or updates that occurred following an election. The changes will then be subject to Congressional consideration and action during a future legislative session. At the time of Congressional review, Congress members could also propose changes before the updated election code and rules are passed.

At the Oct. 28 Election Board meeting, discussions and potential changes took place regarding the election rule and regulations. Changes to the candidate filing fees section were discussed.

The board agreed to update a sentence mandating the Election Supervisor to submit all collected candidate fees to the Nation’s accounting department, which is current practice. However, the current rules language states the election supervisor must deposit the fees into the “election fund,” but the Election Office does not keep a standalone bank account.

Election Supervisor Alexis Rencountre asked the board if they want to revisit discussion on raising the candidate filing fees. The current candidate filing fees are: $500 for Principal Chief, $400 for Assistant Principal Chief and $300 for Congressional candidates.

Election Board Chairwoman Shannon Lockett said she believes the board should wait to hear more feedback from Congress. Lockett said the board has heard discussion the fees should be raised to weed out candidates who may not be serious about running for office. The current filing fees are the same as those used in past elections after the 2006 reformed ON government launched.

The board is also proposing a change in language requiring the Election Office to notify the public of its privacy program. Current rules and regulations require the election supervisor to mail notifications of the privacy program to all eligible Osage voters every December. The privacy program omits interested Osage voters’ names from published lists for any citizen requesting a copy of the voter registry list for political purposes and participation can be cancelled at any time.

Lockett said the rule is “crazy” because it’s “a huge waste of money” that would be spent on creating the individual notifications and postage. Instead, the board is supporting a change in the rules stating Osage voters shall be informed of the privacy program at least once a year via updates through social media, newspaper ads and other notification outlets.

The board supports a proposal to remove Section 7 of the rules and regulations regarding “disputes on eligibility of voters.” This section allows Osage voters to challenge the eligibility of any person presenting them to vote.

“How are you supposed to know who’s going to vote in advance?” Lockett said. In referring to recent tribal court cases regarding Osage membership disputes and challenges, Lockett said the board does not have authority to determine who’s Osage.

Clint Patterson, ON Assistant Attorney General who represents the Election Board, said he agreed the section should be stricken because if there’s a dispute over someone’s Osage membership, it will end up in court anyway.  

As far as confirming voter eligibility at the poll on election days, Lockett said election staff are able to verify basic voter information including names, ages and whether voters are enrolled with the Membership office.

With regards to certified mail sent to candidates, the board is supporting a new $100 fine that would be issued to election candidates who do not pick up their certified mail sent by the Election Office. The Election Office sends time-sensitive notifications to candidates, if necessary, which includes notices of fines or deficiencies in submitted campaign contribution reports, which can lead to fines if not corrected.

Lockett supports the idea, stating “it’s a waste of money on the Election Office’s part to send communication via certified mail … It’s in (the candidates’) best interest to go get it.” She noted the board had issues, including one hearing, in past election years regarding candidates who did not pick up their certified mail.

The Election Board, which also includes Terry Hazen and Belle Wilson, meets monthly and can be reached by emailing electionboard@osagenation-nsn.gov and the Election Office website has information forms for updating voter addresses, participating in the privacy program and voter registration at: www.osagenation-nsn.gov/what-we-do/elections