Tribal Government & News

26 percent of eligible voters register for split-sibling constitutional amendment election

02.28.2019 Dean Rhodes Elections

By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

Even with an extended period of time during which they could register for the upcoming Bureau of Indian Affairs-supervised constitutional amendment election, an average number of Grand Ronde Tribal members will decide the issue.

During the last three constitutional amendment elections held in 2016, 2015 and 2012, an average of 1,248 Tribal members registered to vote. For the March 22 split-sibling constitutional amendment election, 1,291 Tribal members are registered.

According to the Member Services Department, approximately 4,880 Grand Ronde Tribal members are 18 or older, making them eligible to register to vote. Twenty-six percent did so.

The original Jan. 25 deadline to register for the election was extended to Friday, Feb. 22, after a month-long partial federal government shutdown prompted the BIA and Tribe to postpone the process. The original Election Day was slated to be Feb. 25.

Tribal voters are having their seventh opportunity to amend the Tribal Constitution. 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 amend Article V to allow for 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 enrolled in another Tribe.

Tribal Council was encouraged to move the proposed amendment forward by a positive September advisory vote. 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 amendment changes have ever received sufficient yes votes to pass -- the July 1999 enrollment requirements that created the split-sibling 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 outright defeated.

Since the election is being supervised by the BIA, Tribal members wanting to vote on the issue had to specially register. The BIA still supervises Grand Ronde constitutional amendment elections because a proposal to remove the federal government from the process was defeated 381-230 in 2015.

Two-thirds of those who vote will have to approve for the amendment to pass, as well as 30 percent of those who registered – 388 -- must cast a ballot for the election to count. In the last three constitutional amendment elections, turnout has not been an issue with an average of 61.3 percent of those who registered to vote eventually casting ballots.

Ballots are scheduled to be mailed to Tribal members who registered on Friday, March 1, and must be returned by Friday, March 22, to count.

The registered voter list can be viewed at