Tribal Government & News

Constitutional amendment election set for Feb. 25

12.13.2018 Dean Rhodes, Smoke Signals editor Federal government, Elections, Tribal Council

Tribal voters will have a seventh opportunity to amend the Tribal Constitution when they vote on a constitutional amendment proposal on Monday, Feb. 25.

Tribal Council voted in October to move forward with a proposed amendment designed to address the issue of siblings who are not Tribal members despite having brothers and sisters who are and have the same parent(s).

The proposed amendment to the Tribal Constitution would allow the enrollment of applicants who have enrolled brothers and sisters by the same Tribal parent(s) who were enrolled before Sept. 14, 1999, and who meet pre-1999 constitutional enrollment requirements. Applicants also must meet the five-year relinquishment requirement if they have enrolled in another Tribe.

Tribal Council was encouraged to move the proposed amendment to a vote by a positive Sept. 8 advisory vote result. Tribal voters favored a similarly worded proposal 839 to 365, for a 69.7 percent majority. To amend the Tribal Constitution, two-thirds of those voting must approve of the change.

Only two proposed constitutional amendments have ever received sufficient yes votes to pass -- the July 1999 enrollment requirements that created the current split siblings situation and the February 2008 proposal to increase the relinquishment period from one to five years.

Other constitutional amendment proposals have either failed to garner the two-thirds majority mandated by the Tribal Constitution or have been defeated.

Since the election is being run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Tribal members will have to specially register to vote in the election. Being registered to vote in regular Tribal elections is not sufficient.

Registration packets are scheduled to be mailed on Dec. 31 and start arriving in Tribal members’ mail the first week of January. Tribal members will have until Jan. 25 to register to vote in the election and ballots are scheduled to be mailed on Feb. 1.

Two-thirds of those who vote will have to approve for the amendment to pass, as well as 30 percent of those who registered must cast a ballot for the election to count.

In the last three constitutional amendment elections held in 2016, 2015 and 2012, an average of 1,248 Tribal members have registered to vote in BIA-run elections, but the turnout has only averaged 61.3 percent.

As of the September Tribal Council election, more than 4,150 Tribal members were 18 or older, making them eligible to vote in a Tribal election.

In the run-up to the election, Tribal Council has scheduled four educational sessions: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, in Grand Ronde; 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, in a Portland location yet to be announced; 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, in a Eugene location yet to be announced; and again in Grand Ronde at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs continues to run Tribal constitutional amendment elections because a proposal to remove the federal government from the process was defeated in March 2015 by a vote of 381 to 230.