Tribal Government & News

Tribal Council sends primary election idea to voters

01.31.2012 Ron Karten Tribal Council, Elections

Tribal Council voted 6-1 on Wednesday, Jan. 25, to send a proposed constitutional amendment to voters that would create a primary during the Tribal election process if more than 10 candidates are nominated in any given year.

Only first-term Tribal Council member Toby McClary voted against the resolution and Tribal Council member Valorie Sheker was absent.

During the September 2010 election, a non-binding survey asked Tribal members about a possible Tribal Council primary and about establishing Tribal Council term limits.

Tribal members who responded to the survey supported a primary 582-366, or 61.4 percent in favor of the idea. To change the Tribal Constitution, two-thirds of Tribal voters casting ballots must approve a proposed amendment.

In the 2010 survey, almost 47 percent of those responding said they favored paring the Tribal Council candidate slate to six for the early September general election.

The proposed constitutional amendment would create a primary if the number of candidates nominated to run for Tribal Council in late June exceeds 10. The top six candidates in the primary election would continue on to the September general election.

Tribal Council elections of late have regularly seen a candidate field exceeding 10 with those being elected regularly receiving less than 20 percent of the total vote.

In 2011, 17 Tribal members ran and Tribal Vice Chair Reyn Leno, who received the most votes, received 12.64 percent of the vote.

In 2010, 14 Tribal members ran for Tribal Council and incumbent Chris Mercier, who led the field, received 17.54 percent of the vote.

In 2009, 18 Tribal members ran for Tribal Council and newcomer Toby McClary, who led the field, received 11.59 percent of the vote.

In 2008, 13 Tribal members ran for Tribal Council and the top vote-getter, incumbent Kathleen Tom, received 14.52 percent of the vote.

Tribal Council did not act on the term limit idea, which was endorsed by 75.5 percent (701-227) of those responding to the September 2010 survey. Almost 61 percent of those responding said they favor two terms as the limit for Tribal Council service while a combined 93 percent of respondents said that a maximum of three terms or less should be the limit.

At the Jan. 4 Tribal Council meeting, McClary said there were many issues regarding term limits, such as whether the limit should apply to consecutive or total terms, that has prevented Tribal Council from agreeing on a proposal to send to the membership for a vote.

"The term limits question was very complex," McClary said. "I think there were three different options that people could pick from as far as how many terms. There was not just do you support term limits, but what is your preference? … When we began discussing that, the complexity of the subject is what really dragged out the length of time it took for us to move on anything."

McClary said Tribal Council then decided to move forward on only the primary election amendment.

"We will revisit that," McClary said. "We went with what was easy first, and we will continue to tackle the term limits issue."

At the Jan. 25 Tribal Council meeting, McClary said he decided to vote against sending the primary election proposal to Tribal voters because he thought Tribal Council should have moved forward with resolutions on both the primary election and term limits to save money.