TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation Election Commission will begin on Sunday counting the ballots cast in the recent special election for Principal Chief and they anticipate the process to take multiple days.
“Because of the circumstances surrounding the special election for Principal Chief, the Commission has established a three-day process for counting the election results,” said Susan Plumb, chairperson of the Election Commission. “We know that this has been a long process and people are eager to know who will serve as the next Principal Chief, but the Commission must remain focused on its responsibility of providing the Cherokee people with an accurate, fair and impartial election.”
The Commissioners have taken added security precautions and the timeline was created to decrease the chances of human error. The timeline the Commission has established outlines the process.
On Sunday, Oct. 9, the Commission will begin counting the results of the Sept. 24 precinct-voting day and the walk-in voting days. Commissioners anticipate having the results of the ballots cast for walk-in and precinct voting published on Sunday. The most time-intense portion will be during the verification process of the absentee ballots cast, which the Commission says may take a portion of Sunday and all day Monday.
“The Cherokee Nation’s election process is unique because we have an at-large voting district,” said Plumb. “Many citizens who live around the world cast their ballot by absentee.”
In the special election nearly 12,000 registered Cherokee voters requested absentee ballots, which means there were more than 3,800 absentee ballots requested in special election than were requested in the June general election.
Election procedures require that each absentee ballot be verified. During this process the Commission reviews the envelope for proper notarization and signature. Then the Commission ensures that the person casting the ballot is an eligible, registered voter. The Commission anticipates it will count absentee ballots the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 11.
Following the completion of absentee ballot counting, the Commission will review challenged ballots. A ballot is marked “challenged” when a person is casting a ballot at a precinct where he or she is not registered to vote or if a precinct official challenges the voter’s right to vote for other reasons.
The Commissioners anticipate having all ballots counted and the “unofficial” results published by Wednesday. The Commission has 48 hours to certify the election after the “unofficial” results are released.
“Our sincerest hope is that the candidates will not speculate outcomes of this election until the last citizen’s vote is counted and that candidates will respect the Commission’s procedures and timelines that enable the Commission to fulfill its responsibility,” said Plumb.