TAHLEQUAH, OK - Tribal members and the candidates themselves were growing increasingly frustrated with the drawn-out Cherokee election process, as the tribe's Supreme Court prepared to continue hearing arguments Tuesday in Chad Smith's appeal.
Local sources report the appeal, filed July 5, requests that the court either order a manual recount of all votes cast or call for a new election.
Smith filed the appeal after a June 30 recount declared challenger Bill John Baker the winner by 266 votes.
"We don't know for sure what's going to happen at the hearing," Baker said. "Elections are tough, but they shouldn't have to be this hard."
As part of Smith's appeal, the Cherokee Supreme Court conducted a hand recount of all the ballots Saturday and Sunday for evidentiary purposes. Smith was ahead by five votes at the conclusion of Sunday's counting, but the court-ordered recount does not overturn the certified results from the previous recount.
The court is set to reconvene to hear arguments at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The figures from this weekend's count have not been made available to the public.
Almost four weeks out from election day, some Cherokee citizens have become frustrated with the turmoil and back-and-forth between the two principal chief candidates and the constantly changing figures.
Debi Troppman, a Cherokee voter from Grove, said she has seen the election turn from bad to worse and hopes that either one of the candidates will soon be able to call himself the undisputed chief.
"It's just a mess and I'm sure everyone feels the same way," she said. "It's almost becoming a joke at this point."
Troppman said she has helped in a past election as a poll worker and has voted regularly in tribal elections since moving back to Oklahoma 15 years ago. She said the changing count has made an already bitter campaign into a "nasty election."
"I was really disappointed because I look at both of them (the candidates) as gentlemen," she said. "But I guess that's politics."
Troppman's disappointment is also felt by the younger generation. Asa Lewis, the coordinator for the six Native American student groups overseen by Northeastern State University's Center for Tribal Studies, said despite the smaller numbers on campus this summer, she has noticed a definite attitude change among several students.
"One of the main things I've been hearing is how disheartened they (NSU students) are with the election turnout not being finalized and just dragging on," Lewis said. "There's a lot of disappointment lingering out there."
The voting totals
DateBakerSmithLeader What happened
June 267,6007,589Baker by 11 Unofficial totals posted at election commission building and online
June 277,6027,609Smith by 7 Official totals released and certified the same afternoon
June 307,6137,347Baker by 266 Recount totals certified that night; Smith appeals
Sunday NA NA Smith by 5 Officials say they will release totals at a Supreme Court hearing Tuesday