Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

September 7, 2012

Tribal councilors file suit over redistricting law

TAHLEQUAH — Five Cherokee Nation Tribal Council members filed suit against the administration Wednesday, saying a redistricting law passed in July is unconstitutional.

Councilors named in the suit include Buel Anglen, Jack Baker, Julia Coates, Lee Keener, and Cara Cowan-Watts. All opposed the legislation when it was presented at the July 17 meeting, saying it constitutes gerrymandering.

The act, which passed 10-7, increases voting districts from five to 15, allowing one district per tribal councilor, with two at-large positions. Under the new redistricting plan, the current District 5 – which includes Rogers and Tulsa counties – would lose a seat to a new district being created to cover Ottawa, northern Delaware and a portion of Mayes counties.

The seat being eliminated is held by Anglen, who is up for re-election next year. Under the new map, Cowan-Watts or Lee Keener, the other two District 5 councilors, would have move to new residences to seek re-election, or give up their slots on the council.

Anglen, Keener and Cowan-Watts have been vocal opponents of Principal Chief Bill John Baker since his election last year.

In their petition, councilors allege several counts under which the law should be rescinded.

The first count states council seats included in the new law are not apportioned to “afford a reasonably equal division of the citizens among the districts,” because many citizens have been omitted from the census due to “bad addresses.”

The new redistricting map is based on Cherokee Nation registration data, and switches former district voters with bad addresses to at-large voters. At-large voters are not counted in redistricting population figures, but are still allowed to participated in tribal elections.

The second count in the suit alleges the law violates fair voting, and divides communities.

“Several districts divide communities and do not follow permanent geographic features,” court documents state. “For example, the towns/cities of Skiatook and Tahlequah appear to be divided into three districts. No reason was entered into the legislative history [of the law] to justify that any variation from the ideal was necessary to achieve some legitimate tribal objective.”

Count three alleges the law violates fair voting common law by unduly favoring a person or political party.

“While Cherokee Nation does not have political parties as entrenched as Democrats or Republicans, there have emerged voting blocs analogous to political parties in this council,” the document states. “...The 10 council members, the ‘majority’ who voted [for the law], typically vote as a bloc on split votes. The seven council members, the ‘minority,’ who voted [against the law], typically vote as a bloc on split votes.”

Plaintiffs in the suit assert that, of the seats held by members of the majority, all are protected in districts as drawn in the redistricting law.

“Of the seats held by the members of the minority, one may be eliminated and two may force incumbent members of the minority to run against each other before the constitutional end of their terms [2015],” states the document.

Councilors voting in favor of the law included Tina Glory-Jordan, Joe Byrd, David Walkingstick, Jodie Fishinghawk, Janelle Fullbright, David Thornton, Frankie Hargis, Dick Lay, Charles Hoskin Jr., and Curtis Snell. Those opposed – in addition to Keener, Cowan-Watts, Anglen, Coates and Baker – included Don Garvin and Meredith Frailey.

The fourth count alleges the law is unconstitutional, as it creates conflict within the tribe’s constitution, and that because the law is effective immediately, it prevents affected councilors from serving their full terms.

During the July meeting, Hoskin recognized the eventuality of the suit filed on Wednesday.

“I believe we’re headed to a lawsuit, and what happened ... was a stage show to set up that court battle,” said Hoskin, referring to Cowan-Watts’ repeated efforts to get several other redistricting maps entered into the debate. “Otherwise, they would have brought these maps forward months ago. Does anyone seriously think we’re not headed to court? Does anyone think this was a sincere effort? A sincere effort would have been brought forth months ago.”

Click here to get the entire Tahlequah Daily Press delivered everyday to your home or office. Code for E-EDITION TRIAL OR SUBSCRIBE Click here to get a free trial or to subscribe to the Tahlequah Daily Press electronic edition.

It's the ENTIRE newspaper (without the paper) for your computer, iPad or e-reader.

Text Only
Local News
  • sr-Sherman-Alexie.jpg Native wit

    Sherman Alexie Jr., self-professed “res” American Indian, dislikes casinos, mascots and Oklahoma for stealing his favorite basketball team.
    Northeastern State University welcomed the celebrated poet, writer and filmmaker to campus Wednesday, and the audience was treated to 90 minutes of witty and unblinking observation from the perspective of an American Indian all-too-familiar with life on a reservation.
    Alexie, named one of the 21st Century’s top 20 writers by The New Yorker, delivered what was essentially a standup monologue to a packed house in the auditorium of the W. Roger Webb Educational Technology Center. Some of Alexie’s best-known works are “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” a book of short stories, and the film “Smoke Signals.”

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • rock-jodi.jpg Woman serving time for burning baby seeks judicial review

    A Cherokee County mother sentenced to 17 years in prison for burning her 14-month-old baby with an iron is asking for a judicial review.
    Court records show Jodi Leann Rock, 21, requested a copy of her judgment and sentence, and this week filed an application for a judicial review. Copies of her request have been submitted to a judge and the District Attorney’s Office.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-SchoolCharter.jpg Concerns expressed as SB 573 awaits House vote

    With an Oklahoma Senate bill now awaiting a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, some parents are voicing concerns about the futures of rural K-8 schools in Cherokee County.
    Senate Bill 573 calls for a commission to establish charter schools throughout the state. A charter school receives taxpayer funding, but functions independently. They can be founded by an array of interests, including teachers, parents, universities and nonprofits. In Oklahoma, tribal entities can establish charter schools.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man gets suspended sentence for possession

    A 37-year-old Webbers Falls man has been given a suspended sentence on drug-possession charges.
    Dusty Kayl Skaggs was charged with endeavoring to manufacture methamphetamine earlier this year after he and 43-year-old Misty Hayes Paden, of Muskogee, were arrested during execution of a search warrant.

    April 24, 2014

  • sr-NSU-Earth-day.jpg NSU students observe Earth Day

    Students and members of the community converged on Northeastern State University’s Second Century Square on Tuesday to spend an afternoon celebrating Earth Day.
    The event featured tables sponsored by campus organizations, prizes and music by Chris Espinoza. NSU’s Earth Day theme was “Gather Here. Go Green,” and was organized by the Committee for Sustainability and the Northeastern Student Government Association (NSGA).

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts-smallholders-courtesy.jpg Rural smallholders host annual show

    More and more, many people are showing growing interest in learning the sources of their food, including meat. As such, interest in farm-to-table living is increasing.
    Saturday, the Rural Smallholders Association held its annual spring show at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds, promoting the farming of sheep and goats, along with giving the general public a sample of their products.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • pitts-hurley.jpg Wanted man nabbed during traffic stop

    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies arrested a wanted man this week after a traffic stop near South Muskogee and Willis Road.
    Hurley D. Pitts, 40, was being sought by authorities on a motion to revoke a previous sentence.
    Sheriff’s Deputy Jarrick Snyder said he stopped a car after it ran off the road a couple of times. A woman was behind the wheel, and Pitts was sitting in the passenger seat.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-Wikafile.jpg Communiversity Band performs Sunday

    Musicians from on and off the Northeastern State University campus have made their final preparations for an upcoming performance of the NSU Communiversity Band.
    The ensemble performs Sunday, April 27, at 7 p.m., in the NSU Center for the Performing Arts. The conductor is Dr. Norman Wika, associate professor of music and band program director. Guest conductor is student Kameron Parmain. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.
    “Everything has come together very well this semester,” Wika said.
    “We have about 40 musicians, and everyone who started the rehearsals has stuck with it. This could be the best Community Band concert yet.”

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Council concerned over reports of land contamination

    Negotiations involving the purchase of nearly 20 homes on 7 acres of land near Basin Avenue hit a snag Monday night when concerns surfaced over potential contamination of the area.
    Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols had proposed the city purchase the homes and duplexes as a large step in a greenbelt project, which would establish a solid park and trail system from the downtown area to the site of the city’s old solid waste transfer station.
    Until Monday, details of the negotiations had been mostly discussed behind closed doors, though Nichols confirmed the list price for the property to be $480,000.

    April 23, 2014

  • Council tables cell tower permit apps

    Tahlequah city councilors on Monday opted to hold off on approval of two special-use permit applications that would help AT&T install a couple of 150-foot cell towers within the city.
    Branch Communications is asking for the permits as it attempts to construct two monopole cell towers – one on Commercial Road near Green Country Funeral Home, and another at the Tahlequah Public Schools bus barn on Pendleton Street. Other towers are being built outside of the city limits.
    Members of the city’s planning and zoning board gave their OK for both permits last month.

    April 23, 2014


How confident are you that the immunizations for infants and children are reasonably safe?

Not at all confident.
Somewhat confident.
Relatively confident.
Extremely confident.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
US Proposes Pay-for-priority Internet Standards Wife Mourns Chicago Doctor Killed in Afghanistan FDA Proposes Regulations on E-cigarettes Kerry Warns Russia of Expensive New Sanctions Mideast Peace Talks Stall on Hamas Deal Cody Walker Remembers His Late Brother Paul Grieving South Korea Puts Up Yellow Ribbons Raw: Kerry Brings His Dog to Work Raw: Girls Survive Car Crash Into Their Bedroom Three U.S. Doctors Killed by Afghan Security Yankees' Pineda Suspended 10 Games for Pine Tar Colleagues Mourn Death of Doctors in Afghanistan Ukraine Launches Operation Against Insurgents Obama Reassures Japan on China Raw: Car Crashes Into San Antonio Pool Time Magazine Announces Top Influencers List Raw: Angry Relatives Confront SKorea Officials Bigger Riders Means Bigger Horses Out West Yankees Pineda Ejected for Pine Tar Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US