Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

September 18, 2012

CN redistricting squabble continues

TAHLEQUAH — The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council on Monday passed a resolution by 12-7, ratifying the “friendly lawsuit” it filed Aug. 31 against the tribe’s election commission over a redistricting law.

The suit is the second filed in Cherokee Nation District Court since the act was passed by the council in July.

In late August, Councilors Buel Anglen, Jack Baker, Julia Coates, Lee Keener and Cara Cowan-Watts sued the administration, saying the redistricting law is unconstitutional.

The second suit, filed by the tribal council, asks the court to “determine the legal and constitutional aspects of the legislation, resolving all disagreements and potential challenges.”

In July, the council passed an act that increased voting districts from five to 15, allowing one district per 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 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 to move to seek re-election, or give up their slots.

Coates on Monday indicated she did not want to be party to the council’s litigation, as she is one of the five who sued earlier in August, asking the court to rule the act unconstitutional.

Councilor Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the suit filed by the tribal council seeks the same result as that of the five individual councilors.

“We all want to get to the same place,” said Hoskin. “We want the courts of the Cherokee Nation to tell us whether the law we passed is constitutional. Those who dissent are free to file their own lawsuit, but it’s all going to boil down to one question: Is that act constitutional?”

Councilor Meredith Frailey asked Dianne Barker-Harrold, counsel for the legislators, if the court would be likely to dismiss one of the suits, if both ask a similar question.

“It appears the second suit will be dismissed, but the court could allow the second party to file amicus briefs in the original suit,” said Barker-Harrold.

“It is not a suit of animosity against the election commission, but to bring them in to give them the guidance to move forward. The main thing that needs to be done is to have questions asked and answered.”

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