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June 6 election results unchanged after recount

After three hours of recounting, the Osage Nation Election Board announced the outcome of the June 6 general election will stand and certified the results.

The Election Board, along with office staff and an ON police officer, convened for a June 15 special meeting to conduct the recount at the request of candidate Myron Red Eagle. ON Election Supervisor Alexis Rencountre said Red Eagle filed his petition and $500 money order for the recount on June 9.  

The recount results in the Congressional candidate race did not change the outcome of the election. However, the recount process detected an additional ballot that was overvoted with seven candidate picks. Overvoted ballots with more than six picks for Congressional candidates are not counted, according to the Election Board.

Therefore, the seven candidates picked on the newly found overvoted ballot were not counted in the recount results, meaning seven candidates lost one vote in the final results, which is not sufficient to change the outcome of the election. Those seven candidates losing one vote were Archie Mason, Maria Whitehorn, RJ Walker, John Maker, Brandy Lemon, Michael Bristow and Jacque Jones.

The results for the single Constitutional amendment question on the ballot did not change and will stand with the question passing with 84.4 percent of the “yes” vote.

Red Eagle previously said he requested the recount to settle questions on the recount and asked his niece Mary Mashunkashey and fellow Osage citizen Patricia Spurrier Bright to attend on his behalf as witnesses. The recount process started at about 9:30 a.m. with the election officials obtaining the voted ballots from the election office vault with the help from ONPD officer Brian Herbert, who is an investigator for the ON Attorney General’s office and furnished the vault key.

Herbert and Rencountre also used electronic pass keycards to open the vault door and the ballots were obtained with help of the board members, which was video recorded with a handheld camera. The office and vault are also equipped with surveillance cameras to monitor office traffic.

Rencountre and Assistant Election Supervisor Courtney Piearcy opened the bags containing the ballots and started feeding them into the electronic ballot machines, which were the same ones used during the in-person and early voting days. The machines read bar codes on the ballots and are able to detect whether a voter overvoted by marking more than the allowed spaces for six candidates in the Congressional race.

Bright and Mashunkashey observed the process starting with the removal of ballots from the safe and occasionally asked questions about the process. One question asked was whether the two-day early voting opportunities help.

Election Board Chairwoman Shannon Lockett said yes, noting one voter drove 90 minutes one-way and didn’t realize she forgot her purse with identification cards, so she returned on the second day to vote. The Election Office also noted a family from Pennsylvania came to vote on the second day of early voting.

Mashunkashey, who drove from North Dakota for the Hominy In-Lon-Schka, said she appreciated the election staff’s work and process to do the recount, adding “I got to learn something new.”

Rencountre sporadically reported when she turned up an overvoted ballot, which had seven or more candidates picked on it and also noted there were several undervoted ballots where less than six candidates were picked. The recount process also turned up at least one ballot with anonymous commentary on it.

Rencountre called them “bad notes” and said a voter wrote comments next to at least two candidates names that said “embezzler” and “should go to jail.”

Lockett said such comments have been written on ballots before. She also recalled in a previous election, someone wrote in additional candidates with food names “Meat Gravy” and “Corn Soup.”

As the recount process carried on, Bright reached into her purse and took out a paperback puzzle book at 11:30 a.m. “I take it out just in case the excitement is gone,” she said and others in the room laughed.

Bright also applauded the election officials’ efforts adding, “I think it was worth doing this recount” and she wants voters to take notice that overvoted ballots will not count in elections.

Rencountre said the numbers of in-person voted ballots did not change. On day one of early voting, 60 people voted; on day two, 83 voted; on June 6, 815 voted at the Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center.

Lockett said she is pleased “the results are accurate” amid the additional overvoted ballot discovered and also said “we see a lot of strange things” during elections. Afterward, the ballots were placed back in the vault where they must be kept for a minimum of one year then board members Lockett, Belle Wilson and Terry Hazen voted unanimously to certify the results.


Benny Polacca

Original Publish Date: 2016-06-16 00:00:00


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Benny Polacca
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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