Tribal Government & News
858 register for Nov. 2 constitutional amendment election
By Dean Rhodes
Smoke Signals editor
About 20 percent of adult Tribal members registered to vote in the Nov. 2 constitutional amendment election that will determine whether to limit future disenrollment proceedings to only cases of fraud and dual enrollment.
According to the voter registration list released by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 858 Tribal members registered during what Senior Staff Attorney Holly Partridge said was the shortest registration process timeline the Tribe has ever had for a Bureau of Indian Affairs-run election.
During the recent Sept. 10 Tribal Council election, there were 4,402 adult Tribal members.
The number of registered voters is the smallest amount for any constitutional election held by the Tribe. In all of the other seven constitutional elections, more than a 1,000 Tribal members registered, ranging from 1,091 in March 2015 to more than 1,500 in July 2016.
A “unified” Tribal Council approved sending the proposal out to voters during its Aug. 10 meeting and held its first educational meeting regarding the proposal via Facebook Live on Sept. 21.
This will be the eighth time since 1999 that Tribal voters will be asked to amend the Constitution. Only two proposals out of those previous seven votes that included 11 suggested amendments received the required two-thirds majority to alter the Tribe’s Constitution.
The proposed constitutional amendment would amend Article V, Section 5 to limit involuntary loss of membership to fraud and dual enrollment, and remove the current language regarding loss of membership for failure to meet enrollment criteria.
Section 5 currently reads, “The Tribal Council shall by ordinance prescribe rules and regulations governing involuntary loss of membership. The reasons for such loss shall be limited exclusively to failure to meet the requirements set forth for membership in this Constitution.”
The proposal comes in reaction to the divisive disenrollment proceedings that occurred in 2015 during which Tribal members were provisionally disenrolled. Eventually, the Tribal Court of Appeals ruled that the Tribal members who were identified for disenrollment because they allegedly did not meet enrollment criteria were to remain in the Tribe because the government had waited too long to start proceedings against them.
Unlike regular Tribal Council elections, a constitutional amendment election is run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which required Tribal members to register separately to vote. From there, at least 30 percent of those who registered to vote must cast a ballot – 258 of the 858 registered voters -- for the results to count and 66.7 percent of those voting must approve the amendment before it can change the Constitution.
In March 2015, Tribal voters were asked to remove the Bureau of Indian Affairs from supervising Grand Ronde constitutional amendment elections, but voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea with 62.4 percent wanting to retain federal oversight.
A voter list was posted on the Governance Center doors on Wednesday, Oct. 4, and Tribal members who registered should ensure that their name is on the list. Tribal members have until Friday, Oct. 7, to challenge the list by contacting Greg Norton at the BIA at 503-231-6723 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Ballots will be mailed out no later than Oct. 10 and must be returned by Nov. 2. There is no in-person voting for a BIA constitutional election.
Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez said there would be four hybrid in-person/Zoom educational meetings that will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at Portland State University’s Native American Student & Community Center, Room 110; in Tribal Council Chambers in Grand Ronde at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18; in Salem at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Salem Public Library, 585 Liberty St. S.E.; and in Tribal Council Chambers in Grand Ronde at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26.
For more information, visit the Tribal government’s website at www.grandronde.org or contact Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org.