Tribal Government & News

Primary election amendment vote set for June 13

04.03.2012 Ron Karten Elections

Registered Tribal voters will decide whether they want to insert a primary election process into the Tribal Constitution during an upcoming election.

On Jan. 25, Tribal Council voted 6-1 to send the proposal to Tribal members. The constitutional amendment would create a primary if the number of nominated Tribal Council candidates in late June exceeds 10. The top six candidates in the primary election would proceed on to the September general election.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs was scheduled to sent voter registration packets to eligible Tribal members on April 9. Tribal members have until May 9 to return their voter registration form to the BIA in order to vote in the special election.

Ballots will be sent to registered Tribal voters on May 18 and must be returned to the BIA by June 13.

To change the Tribe's Constitution, at least 30 percent of registered Tribal voters must cast a ballot and at least 66.7 percent of those voting must approve the change.

The idea of a primary election was floated during a non-binding survey sent to Tribal members in September 2010. Tribal members who responded to the survey supported a primary election 582-366, or 61.4 percent in favor.

Recent Tribal Council elections regularly have seen candidate slates exceeding 10 with those being elected usually receiving less than 20 percent of the total vote.

In 2011, 17 Tribal members ran for office and Tribal Vice Chair Reyn Leno, who captured 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 topped 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.

Other Native American Tribes have primary elections. For instance, the Shoshone Bannock Tribes of Idaho currently have 10 candidates running for the Fort Hall Business Council. The top three vote-getters will face off against the three incumbents in the general election.

Also in September 2010, the Tribe asked its members if they supported Tribal Council term limits, which were endorsed by 75.5 percent (701-227) of those who responded to the survey.

In January, Tribal Council member Toby McClary was the only one to vote against sending the primary idea to Tribal voters because, he said, he thought Tribal Council should have moved forward with resolutions on both survey questions in an effort to save money.