Tribal Government & News

Tribal Council reverses course on election changes

06.24.2020 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council, Elections


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

In response to critical comments from the membership, Tribal Council and the Tribe’s Election Board reversed a June 10 decision to hold the 2020 Tribal Council election as essentially an all-mail election and return to business as usual.

During its June 10 meeting, Tribal Council approved an emergency amendment to the Election Ordinance that would have closed the polling location in the Community Center and required Tribal members to vote by absentee ballot in an effort to protect voting Elders and Elders serving on the Election Board from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

During the 2019 Tribal Council election, 143 Tribal members cast in-person ballots in the Community Center and three Tribal members registered to vote on Election Day.

But those changes were reversed on Wednesday, June 24, and the 2020 Tribal Council election will be held as it usually has been in previous years with walk-in voting and registration available on Election Day, which will be Saturday, Sept. 12.

The only amendment approved by Tribal Council on June 10 that will remain in place is a reduction of Election Board office hours in the Community Center from 20 hours to 15 hours per week.

Tribal Senior Staff Attorney Deneen Aubertin Keller said during the Tuesday, June 23, Legislative Action Committee hearing that the Election Board will institute COVID-19 precautions during Election Day, such as cleaning and disinfecting voting booths after every use.

General Manager David Fullerton said the Tribe’s Facilities Department will work with the Election Board to clean voting booths and erect plastic barriers if necessary. He also requested that Tribal Council allow the flexibility to move the polling location from the Community Center to a safer location on the Tribal campus if necessary.

Tribal Council member Michael Langley said that since the election is still more than two months away, the Tribe needs to retain the flexibility on where to house the polling site.

In other action, Tribal Council:

  • Approved a $609,927 settlement with Central Petro Inc. of Bend regarding environmental damage caused by a gasoline spill into the North Santiam River in December 2017. The Grand Ronde Tribe is one of the trustees regarding environmental damage to the river along with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and Siletz Tribe.
  • Approved accepting $3,657 from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to clear brush on the Tribe’s Ahsney conservation property north of Rickreall in Polk County;
  • Approved a contract not to exceed $140,000 with J. Franco Reforestation to remove brush from 127 acres of the Tribe’s Rattlesnake Butte conservation property northwest of Junction City in Lane County;
  • Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Oregon Department of Transportation that will facilitate Tribal consultation on the Fort Hill Road to Valley Junction highway construction project;
  • Approved the Housing Department’s application for $937,090 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Indian Housing Plan funding that is designed to help Tribes with costs association with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The federal funding will reimburse the Tribe for such items as granting rent relief for low-income tenants between April 1 and June 30;
  • Approved accepting $14,724 in funding from the Oregon Department of Administrative Services to help fund Tribal Court’s Court Appointed Special Advocate program;
  • Approved applying for a three-year, $788,228 Administration for Native Americans Esther Martinez language grant that would help provide a teacher and assistant teacher for an additional Chinuk Wawa immersion preschool classroom;
  • Appointed Tribal Elder Gladys Hobbs as an honorary member of the Health Committee with a term ending in March 2022;
  • And approved the enrollment of one infant into the Tribe because he or she meets the requirements outlined in the Tribal Constitution and Enrollment Ordinance.

The entire meeting can be viewed by visiting the Tribal government’s website at and clicking on the Government tab and then Videos.