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Special election conducted entirely in-house for first time

The Osage Nation’s 2017 special election marks the first time an election is being conducted in-house with the election staff and board members handling all duties.

In past elections, third-party election company workers aided on-site or by electronic means. Osage election officials say this is a milestone to have the election conducted by its own staff to cut down on costs.

Shortly after 10 a.m., Election Supervisor Alexis Rencountre picked up the 1,100-plus absentee ballots kept in a locked metal box at the Pawhuska Post Office with an ON police escort. Election Board member Belle Wilson recorded the transaction on a video camera, as well as the transporting of the metal box to the former Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center building where the election poll is located. Voting is open until 8 p.m.

Rencountre said videotaping the process isn’t required by Osage law, “but we do it as a practice to show we are holding ourselves accountable and transparent.”

With the absentee ballots now at the polling site, Election Board Chairwoman Shannon Lockett, Wilson and board member Terry Hazen are taking turns to verify absentee ballot signatures using a computer software program. Once the signatures are verified, the names are recorded as those who voted in this election.

Rencountre said this part of the process is crucial because once a voter’s name is recorded into the computer system, that person cannot vote again to prevent voter fraud. She said the system works both ways (at the Election Board’s computer and polling check-in table) in recording names so a person cannot vote twice.

The Election Office is continuing its contract to use the computer software services of Austin, Texas-based Hart Intercivic election company for this special election. The ON Election Office previously purchased computer equipment and services from the company for the 2016 general election.

After the election, the ballots and other election computer v-drives and documents will be kept in the Election Office vault for up to a year, Rencountre said.

At 8 p.m., the election poll will close and the election staff and board members will continue processing and tabulating the ballots before announcing the results. Like in previous election years, the election staff plan to announce the results in front of the Osage Nation Congressional Chambers building in Pawhuska.

As of 3 p.m. there are 172 Osages who voted in-person today, Rencountre said.

Check back with Osage News this evening for the election results.


Benny Polacca

Original Publish Date: 2017-03-20 00:00:00

Benny Polacca

Title: Senior Reporter


Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.


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