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In their petition, councilors allege several counts under which the law should be rescinded.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
  • svw-beagles-MAIN.jpg Going to the dogs

    Hounds at center stage for more than just Red Fern Festival

    Larry Blackman and Titus Blanket have always loved dogs, especially beagles. In their respective roles as president and vice president of the Cherokee County Beagle Club, they’ve turned that love into a passion.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • sanders-jeri.jpg Murder charge against mother of dead boy, 3, dismissed

    A first-degree murder charge has been dropped against a 37-year-old mother accused in the death of her 3-year-old son.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • supersalary.jpg Okla. superintendents paid comparatively well; teachers 46th lowest

    Administrators say they work year-round, have other duties

    As public education in Oklahoma continues to feel the pinch of a shrinking state budget, watchdog groups and district patrons across the state are asking whether superintendents are getting a disproportionate piece of the financial pie.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • Boards keep city, county afloat

    City and county officials rely on a variety of boards to oversee diverse and complex issues, and many of their members work behind the scenes to keep the wheels of government oiled and turning.
    The city of Tahlequah currently has 10 boards and three trust authorities. Cherokee County has two county-specific boards.

    July 31, 2014

  • HPWA contract raises gas to $3.99 a gallon

    The Hulbert Public Works Authority renewed its natural gas contract with Constellation Energy July 29, raising fuel prices to $3.99 per gallon for the next two years.

    July 31, 2014

  • Tourism Council OKs compensation

    The Tahlequah Area Tourism Council held its annual retreat Wednesday, and approved paying former Director Kate Kelly 100 hours of annual leave.

    July 31, 2014

  • rf-poker-run-main.jpg Poker run

    Fundraiser was in the cards for local philanthropic group

    It was perfect weather, with temperatures in the high 80s Saturday, as boaters filled their vessels with friends for a fun afternoon on Lake Tenkiller. A crowd gathered at Cookson Bend Marina, and folks lined up to support a local charity event.
    As fundraisers go, the Beta Sigma Phi Mu Omega Poker Run last Saturday could be considered huge success, as nearly $9,000 was collected.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • bilbrey-anthony.jpg Man arrested for blackmailing woman for sex

    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies put a man behind bars Monday night after he allegedly tried to blackmail a woman by threatening to post nude photos of her on the Internet if she did not meet him for sex.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Peach_photo_2.jpg Peach crop lean, but fruit still available

    Summer is all about peaches in Porter – especially at Livesay Orchard.
    The Livesay Orchard is still busy a week after Porter’s annual peach festival. The orchard’s crop this year was cut in half from what had previously been expected, according to Kent Livesay, one of the owners of the orchard.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • jackson-jaymee.jpg Tot’s injuries prompt abuse charges for two local residents

    A Tahlequah couple was formally charged Tuesday with child neglect and child abuse after an 18-month-old girl was found with a number of injuries.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos


Do you think "blue laws" related to Sunday alcohol sales in Oklahoma should be relaxed? Choose the option that most closely reflects your opinion.

Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars, and liquor stores should be open.
Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars only; liquor stores should stay closed.
Liquor stores should be open Sundays, but drinks should not be served anywhere on Sundays.
The law should remain as it is now; liquor stores should be closed, and drinks should be served on Sundays according to county option.
No alcohol should be sold or served publicly on Sundays.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN