OKMULGEE — Despite concerns over absentee ballot mailings, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s do-over election will proceed as scheduled Saturday.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation District Court Judge Jeremy Pittman on Friday ordered the tribe’s election board to collect and preserve absentee ballots received after the published 11 a.m. Saturday deadline through 11 a.m. Nov. 8.
The tardy ballots, which will not be counted barring an additional court order, will be subject to the same security protocols as those received by the Election Day deadline and are to be stored separately.
“I don’t want another issue like what we had with the last election,” Pittman said.
An additional hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday to potentially consider ordering the board to count the tardy ballots.
Friday’s order stems from a complaint filed late Thursday by principal chief candidate Bim Stephen Bruner requesting an extended deadline for absentee ballot returns. In an affidavit submitted with the complaint, Bruner’s campaign manager, Tiffany Phillips, stated that she notified the election board of 356 voters who had made contact with the campaign about not receiving a requested absentee ballot for Saturday’s primary.
“We have evidence that there have been untimely efforts by the election board to send out absentee ballots,” Bruner attorney George Miles said. “Right now, we’re just asking that the ballots be secured.”
Originally scheduled to be the tribe’s general election, Saturday’s vote is the product of a court order. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court vacated the all results from the tribe’s Sept. 21 primary election due to questionable ballot security practices. A team from the Atlanta-based Carter Center’s Democracy Program will be on hand Saturday to observe the voting and vote-counting procedures.
Along with the office of principal chief, second chief and seven National Council seats are also being considered.
Principal chief candidates include National Council Second Speaker David Hill, Bruner, National Council Speaker Lucian Tiger III, College of Muscogee (Creek) Nation dean Monte Randall, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town administrator Tim Good Voice and former Tulsa District representative Sam Alexander.
Tulsa construction business owner Joseph Rogers Jr., Okmulgee attorney Brenda Golden and Jackie Jackson, a Porter-based grant writer and planning director for the Otoe-Missouria Tribe, all opted to withdraw their candidacies and will not be listed on Saturday’s ballot.
Due to his Sept. 13 guilty plea in the Eastern District of Oklahoma, former Principal Chief George Tiger is now ineligible for office and will also be excluded from the election. Receiving 135 votes, Tiger finished eighth in the original primary.
Hill and Bruner finished first and second, respectively, in the Sept. 21 vote, according to unofficial returns.
Current Principal Chief James Floyd chose not to seek a second term.
Due to term limits, Second Chief Louis Hicks is not seeking re-election. Two current members of the National Council, Okmulgee District representative Del Beaver and McIntosh District representative Adam Jones III, are vying to replace him.
In accordance with constitutional amendments approved in 2009, Creek voters may cast ballots for all legislative seats, regardless of where they reside or are registered to vote.
Tulsa District candidates Cynthia Tiger and Jerry Wilson withdrew after the Sept. 21 primary, leaving the incumbent, Robert Hufft, unopposed. National Council seats for Creek, Hughes, McIntosh, Muskogee, Tukvpvtce and Wagoner/Mayes/Rogers districts will still appear on the ballot.
Eighteen polling sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday across the tribe’s jurisdictional area. If no one candidate in a race earns a majority of the votes cast, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off, currently scheduled for Dec. 14.