Community , Government

Congress declines adding four special election questions to the ballot in March

An effort to add more questions to the Osage Nation’s March 2017 special election ballot special session failed when the Fifth Osage Nation Congress declined to add four questions to the Nov. 28 special session proclamation of items to consider.

Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead filed and sponsored the resolutions, which sought to add the four proposed ballot questions asking Osage voters to amend four sections of the Osage Constitution.

The Nation is holding a March 20 special election with two questions on the ballot. The election is asking Osage voters whether the definition of marriage in Osage law should include same-sex couples (sponsored by Buffalohead) and a proposed constitutional amendment regarding the legislature (Congress) and its duties of the annual budget (sponsored by Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn).

The third special session proclamation did not originally list the four resolutions sponsored by Buffalohead. She motioned for her Congressional colleagues to vote on adding the resolutions to the proclamation. The vote failed after debate on the question.

The four questions sought to ask Osage voters whether the constitution should be amended to make it easier for Osages to petition for initiatives or referendums, to do recall petitions, to petition for Constitutional amendments and to lower the number of Congressional votes to propose constitutional amendments.

Congresswoman Shannon Edwards asked if these same questions were voted on before and Buffalohead said yes. During the 2014 election, six constitutional amendments appeared on the ballot. Osage voters approved three of the questions, but questions asking to lower the number of voter signatures to file petitions/ referendums and to recall elected/ appointed officials failed to garner 65 percent of the “yes” vote.

Edwards said she was not in favor of adding the questions, noting the Constitution is “a framework from which we are supposed to pass our laws … If we want to wholesale start changing our Constitution, then we need to have a constitutional convention.”

“We’re spending $40,000 of the people’s money to hold a special election, they might as well get a few more questions on there instead of just two,” Buffalohead said.

Whitehorn also said she did not support adding more questions to the ballot, adding “I feel like when you throw five ballot questions out there to the people it gets a little bit overwhelming.”

Buffalohead countered: “I think the Osage people are intelligent enough to have more than two questions on the ballot and know what’s going on … It’s still a cause that multiple groups of Osage people would like to see a change on our Constitution, so it’s our job to get out there and promote and let the voters know everything on the ballot and what changes it makes – and not just the ones that we support.”

Congressman John Maker agreed with Buffalohead, noting times have changed, “we have new tribal members … this gives our people a chance to be involved in our government and not just 12 people trying to dictate law to 20,000 people of our tribe.”

The motion failed with “no” votes from Edwards, Otto Hamilton, James Norris, Ron Shaw, William “Kugee” Supernaw, Joe Tillman and Whitehorn. “Yes” votes came from Buffalohead, Maker, Archie Mason, RJ Walker and Congressional Speaker Angela Pratt.

Buffalohead’s four resolutions

ONCR 17-03 – A resolution for an election ballot question asking Osage voters to amend Article XI, Section 3 of the Osage Constitution regarding a citizen petition and referendum. The resolution makes it easier for Osages to petition for initiative or referendum.

ONCR 17-04 – A resolution for an election ballot question asking Osage voters to amend Article XI, Section 8 of the Constitution regarding recalls. The resolution makes it easier for Osages to do a recall petition.

ONCR 17-05 – A resolution for an election ballot question asking Osage voters to amend Article XX, Section 2 of the Constitution regarding amendments to the Osage Constitution by petition. The resolution makes it easier for Osages to petition for amendments to the Constitution.

ONCR 17-06 – A resolution for an election ballot question asking Osage voters to amend Article XX, Section 1 of the Constitution regarding amendments to the Osage Constitution by Osage legislature vote. The resolution lowers the number of Congress members needed to propose amendments to the Constitution, making it easier.

For more information on the Congressional sessions or to view filed legislative bills and resolutions, go online to: www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch