Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

August 12, 2013

Justices hear testimony in runoff appeal

TAHLEQUAH — tsnell@tahlequahdailypress.com

Cherokee Nation Supreme Court justices heard testimony Thursday in the appeal of the District 4 Tribal Council election runoff.

Official results of the July 27 election show three-term incumbent Don Garvin edging Mike Dobbins out by eight votes. Garvin earned 352 votes of the nearly 700 ballots cast, or 50.6 percent, compared to Dobbins’ 344 votes, or 49.4 percent.

Dobbins exercised his right to request a recount, which took place Thursday, Aug. 1. The recount confirmed the original election results, giving Dobbins a final right of appeal, which he filed Tuesday evening.

According to court documents, Dobbins, through attorney Tim K. Baker, is asking the court to vacate the official re- count re- sults, as the Cherokee Nation Election Commission “failed to conduct the election process in accordance with [the Cherokee] Constitution and laws of the Cherokee Nation. As such, the results of said election were fatally flawed.”

Ballots that may have been counted improperly were cast by five voters at precincts where they were not registered. Baker argued that the tribe’s election laws and regulations require a voter to cast in-person ballots at the precinct where the voter is registered.

This was later confirmed by a Cherokee Nation Election commissioner.

Harvey Chaffin, who represented the CNEC, said those ballots were only “submitted” at the precinct, and because the challenge ballots were counted at the election commission office. That is where they were “cast” and should be included in the final tally, he said.

A second proposition subject to review was the rejection of absentee ballots with illegible signatures. Baker argued that election officials lack the authority to override a notary public’s signature.

A final irregularity addressed by Dobbin’s attorney involved the malfunction of the voting machine at the Warner precinct.

As a result of the equipment failure, precinct workers did not tabulate and tally ballots cast in Warner before taking them to Tahlequah.

Tribal election laws re- quire precinct workers to count the ballots cast and make a tally, even if it has to be done by hand. If the equipment failure becomes an issue, it could put 129 votes into play, more than enough to invalidate the election.

As of press time, the court had not issued a decision. But on Thursday, the all parties – Garvin, Dobbins and Chaffin – agreed to a protective order, sealing the personal voter data and identification numbers listed in previous court documents.

Dobbins, a retired dentist, is originally from Tahlequah, but now lives in Fort Gibson.

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