TAHLEQUAH, Okla.  — Failing to make quorum, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council did not take action on potential amendments to the tribe’s election code at a special meeting Friday afternoon.

Twenty minutes before the meeting’s scheduled 3 p.m. start time, principal chief candidate and Tribal Council member Bill John Baker, along with councilors Tina Glory-Jordan of Hulbert, Okla., Chuck Hoskin Jr., of Vinita, Okla., Jodie Fishinghawk from Stilwell, Okla., and Curtis Snell from Rose, Okla., issued a statement through Baker’s campaign that they would not be attending the special council. The five called the meeting illegal due to the presence of proposed election law amendments on the agenda that had not been vetted by the council’s rules committee.

“The Tribal Council rules are crystal clear that an issue cannot be addressed by the council unless it has first been considered and passed out of a council committee, “ Baker said in the statement.

Council member and deputy chief-elect S. Joe Crittenden of Stilwell, Okla., issued a similar statement 10 minutes later.

“My lack of attendance today is the only way I am able to ensure that our constitution is not violated, future Tribal Councils are not weakened, and our current election laws remain in place until the election for principal chief is complete on Sept. 24,” Crittenden said in a statement.

The proposed amendments, authored by Cara Cowan Watts, would codify a July 12 request from the Tribal Council for the Election Commission to bring in a third-party organization to observe the new principal chief’s election.

The proposal would be also require voters to show identification when arriving to vote, such as a driver’s license, citizenship card, voter registration card or other identification specified by the Cherokee Nation Election Commission.

At-large voters, who are currently limited to voting either via absentee ballot or early in-person voting at the election commission, would be allowed to cast a challenge ballot at any of the 38 precincts across the tribe’s 14 counties. As long as the voter has not already voted, his or her challenge ballot would be counted.

Additionally, the proposal would also bar anyone who is not a Cherokee Nation marshal, a poll worker, an Election Commission employee or an active voter from loitering within 300 feet of polling places on Election day.

An attempt to add the amendments to the agenda for rules committee’s July 28 meeting failed, prompting council attorney Todd Hembree to issue an opinion Wednesday, asking his clients to not hear Cowan Watts’ amendments at Friday’s meeting.

“Having failed to be considered in committee, the legislative act amending our election laws cannot be properly brought forward in our special Tribal Council meeting on Aug. 5, 2011,” Hembree wrote. “Allowing a principal chief to place an item for consideration at a Tribal Council meeting without that item going through the process approved by the Tribal Council can easily be considered a violation of the separation of powers doctrine.”

In his opinion, Hembree wrote that he could not find any legislation over the last 12 years that was brought forward without going through a committee first. The council would have had to suspend its standing rules of order for Cowan Watts’ amendment to have even been considered.

Along with speaker Meredith Frailey, councilors Chris Soap, Harley Buzzard, Julia Coates, Jack Baker, Janelle Fullbright, Don Garvin, Bradley Cobb and Cowan Watts made it to the council chambers Friday afternoon, along with more than 30 Cherokee citizens.

Councilors Buel Anglen of Skiatook and David Thornton from Vian were absent due to hospitalization. Thornton had bypass surgery on Monday after suffering a heart attack during a rules committee meeting on July 29. Anglen’s condition was not known.

“I’m disappointed that the election law amendment hasn’t been taken up,” Coates, an at-large councilor said. “This could have easily been done. Two-thirds of the Cherokee Nation lives outside the 14 counties. If we make it so difficult for people to vote, my people are disproportionately affected.”

After waiting more than 15 minutes to call the meeting to order, Frailey apologized to the assembled crowd.

“We are elected and paid to work for you,” the Locust Grove, Okla.-based councilor said. “This is a reflection on all of us.

“I’m just sad you had to come and witness this.”

Called by current Principal Chief Chad Smith, the special council meeting was also called for a vote on the re-appointments of Cherokee Nation Attorney General Diane Hammons and marshal Sharon Wright and the appointment of Tahlequah resident Susan Plumb to the Cherokee Nation Election Commission.

All three women were confirmed by the council’s rules committee on July 28. Hammons’ term expired in June and Wright’s term expired in July.

Since the council did not have quorum on Friday, the earliest the three appointments could be considered is at its next full council meeting on Aug. 22. Due to a carryover clause in the tribe’s constitution, Wright and Hammons will remain in office despite Friday’s meeting.

The election law amendments cannot be considered until after being vetted by the council’s rules committee, which has a special meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 18.