CRST Elections move forward despite irregularities..

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The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Election Board met on Tuesday, May 9 to address challenges to the April 25 primary election for candidates for Tribal Council. There was a discrepancy in the vote count for District No. 5, where Richard Miner and Antoinette L. Nichols were tied with 60 votes each behind Francine Garreau Hall with 73.

After a challenge and a recount, names were drawn from a hat according to procedures laid out in Ordinance 14, Part 7, Section D, “TIES, Any tie between candidates shall be resolved by drawing lots.” Nichols won the draw. She and Hall will appear on the General Election ballot.

That resolved, the Election Board determined to certify the election and go forward with the General Election in July, feeling the irregularities had been addressed.

Due to a failure to follow procedures, District No. 5 Election Superintendent Jeff Four Bear has been asked to step down and there will be a new superintendent for the General Election.

According to the Election Board proceedings, 1,119 blank ballots were delivered to District No. 5 for voting on April 25. District No. 5 has a single precinct voting at the Bingo Hall in Eagle Butte. 

Eight hundred and sixty-seven unused ballots remained after voting took place.  A total of 250 ballots cast at the Bingo Hall were accounted for. Three were marked spoiled at the site.

Of the remaining 247, 218 were cast at the site by eligible voters on the rolls. Sixteen were cast as affidavit votes and each one placed in a separate envelope pending certification by the Election Board. The night of the election, 13 ballots remained unaccounted for.

At the Election Board meeting Tuesday, it was reported that at the official count on Monday, May 1, those 13 ballots were in a separate pile within the ballot box and were added to the general ballots by vote of the Election Board, bringing the total number of ballots in the box, both marked and unmarked, to 1,119.

The Election Board spoke with Miner and Nichols and asked their perspective on whether the election should be thrown out due to the mishandling of the 13 ballots. 

Miner replied that he acknowledged the mishandling and left it up to the Election Board, asking them to do their duty in holding a fair election. Nichols stated she believed there should be a new election because candidates have a right (per Ordinance 14) to challenge all affidavit ballots and this right was denied.

The discrepancy of 13 ballots was attributed to the fact that ballots were delivered to Disabled/Ill/Confined elderly voters to vote from home instead of at the polling place. By ordinance, such ballots should be marked at affidavit votes and placed in separate envelopes which are then placed in the ballot box.

In this case, the ballots were not marked as affidavits and were subsequently mixed in with the general ballots by the Election Board. At this point there is no way to subsequently determine which ballots were cast illegally. Thus the Election Board was faced with the decision to let the election results stand or to hold a new election they chose the former.

The April election was to select candidates to run for two seats vacated when Ryman LeBeau of District No. 5 was elected Tribal Chairman and Kevin Keckler of District No. 4 was elected Tribal Treasurer. A seat from District No. 1 was also open. Danny Marshall won the seat in November but was subsequently disqualified and a new election called.

The top two candidates from each district will face off in another special election in June or July.

Both the District No. 4 and No. 5 seats are to complete four-year terms which commenced in 2020. The District No. 1 seat will fulfill a four-year term which began in November 2022.

Historically, the executive board and seven council seats are elected in Mid term election years. The remaining eight council seats are elected in Presidential Election Years. For example, the District No. 5 seat vacated by LeBeau was first filled in 1936 and up for election every 4 years up until the 2020 election.

The current Election Board is made up of chair Joe Brings Plenty, Tribal Vice Chair Bob Walters, Kelsie Kay Haskell, Thad Rose and Kenric Dupris.

Candidates from District No. 1 to fill a three-and-a-half-year term are Gary A. Cudmore and Steve Moran.

Candidates from District No. 4 to fill a one-and-a-half-year term are Merrie Miller (White Bull) and Carl Petersen.

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