Two candidates who finished second in their races Saturday for open Cherokee Nation Tribal Council seats quickly questioned the unofficial results and filed requests for recounts this afternoon.
District 2 candidate Bobby Slover and District 7 candidate David Comingdeer sent NonDoc copies of their official paperwork requesting recounts in the Cherokee Nation runoff.
Comingdeer said he also intends to file an official legal challenge of the election results on Monday owing to what he believes are “election violations” related to absentee ballots. Slover’s attorney said his client is also considering a legal challenge of the election results, depending upon the recount outcome.
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission has certified the number of votes cast in Saturday’s election, but “certifying the outcome” will occur at a later date, Election Commission administrator Marcus Fears said in an email.
As the unofficial results stand, Candessa Tehee finished seven votes ahead of Slover in District 2, and Joshua Sam finished 44 votes ahead of Comingdeer in District 7. Both dismissed their opponents’ Facebook posts over the weekend that claimed or implied fraudulent electoral activity.
The 17-member Cherokee Nation Tribal Council features 15 physical districts and two at-large seats for voters residing outside of the tribe’s historic reservation boundary, which was reaffirmed by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma.
After Slover arrest, Tehee tops District 2 results
Slover filed a recount request Wednesday, alleging that “at least 12” additional ballots should have been counted.
“Today, I am asking for a recount of all ballots in the July 24 District 2 Tribal Council runoff election in the Cherokee Nation,” Slover wrote in a statement. “Final results provided by the Cherokee Nation Election Commission show a difference of seven votes between me and my opponent. Not all legal votes were counted in this election. In fact, there are at least 12 legal challenge ballots that the Election Commission has in their possession but for one reason or another refused to count. I am requesting a full recount of this election so that we can get to the bottom of this discrepancy and come to a result that can be trusted by all Cherokee Nation citizens. Wado.”
After the unofficial results showed Tehee ahead by seven votes Saturday night, Slover posted a brief Facebook video alluding to perceived voting irregularities.
“I want to thank you for your vote today (and say) that we won this election outright,” Slover said.
He encouraged voters who either filled out challenged ballots or who were denied the right to cast ballots to contact him.
“There are a number of challenged ballots still outstanding. There is some concern there on behalf of Mr. Slover,” said A.J. Ferate, Slover’s attorney.
In her own Facebook post, Tehee dismissed Slover’s comments.
“It is telling that the only candidate who has been charged with election crimes is claiming the election was ‘stolen.’ These claims are based on absolutely no evidence except their own hurt feelings. Cherokees have spoken, and the election is over,” she said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Tribal Council to address election laws that make it impossible for outside corporate interests to corrupt our elections.”
Tehee was referring to how Slover was arrested and charged July 21 with a felony for accepting an illegal campaign contribution of $1,000 from Action Floors LLC co-owner Darla McCarty. The contribution was sent through the business’ checking account, which would violate the Cherokee Nation’s election rules.
Item A in Section 43 of the Cherokee Nation election code states, “Contributions may only be made by individual natural persons. No corporation, partnership, and/or any other legal entity shall contribute to any Cherokee Nation campaign or candidate.”
Ferate said Slover “did not knowingly” violate the law.
“In fact, he is a novice candidate for office,” Ferate said. “When he was advised by the tribe that it was not appropriate, he returned the check immediately (before being arrested).”
Ferate noted that Item D in Section 46 of the Cherokee Nation election code says, “The election commission shall give the candidate an opportunity to correct any deficiency or error in his or her reports.”
Ferate claimed that the Cherokee Nation is “ignoring” that statute.
“From Mr. Slover’s point of view, they did not want him to be successful in the race, and so they issued an arrest warrant,” Ferate said.
The Election Commission has scheduled a special meeting for 1:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 2, at the Election Commission’s Tahlequah office to address the Cherokee Nation attorney general’s charge against Slover. The meeting was originally scheduled for Thursday, July 29.
In May and June, a volunteer on Slover’s campaign was charged by Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sarah Hill with election fraud related to absentee ballots.
Sam tops Comingdeer, who claims ‘freight train of corruption’
Comingdeer received 316 votes on Election Day to Sam’s 209, but Sam garnered 399 votes through absentee ballots, while Comingdeer had 239.
In a Facebook video after the unofficial results were announced Saturday, Comingdeer claimed the absentee ballot difference stemmed from election fraud. He provided more details about what he called “violations” in an interview Tuesday.
“The highest number of absentee ballots in the history of my tribe was turned in against me with the shortest amount of time to produce them in the runoff,” Comingdeer said. “It’s just impossible for this to happen without clear ballot harvesting.”
Voters had three weeks to return their absentee ballots to the Cherokee Nation Election Commission for the runoff.
Comingdeer also accused Sam of notarizing citizens’ ballots and submitting them himself.
“The ballots weren’t returned by the voter, the ballots that were for my opponent were turned in by my opponent,” Comingdeer said. “My opponent notarized his own ballots.”
Asked if he was certain that such activity would violate the Cherokee Nation election code, Comingdeer said he was challenging it.
Comingdeer added that several people within the Cherokee Nation are “afraid” to speak out because they’re “intimidated by the process” and “intimidated by the administration.”
“We have got to stop this. This freight train of corruption that is just ripping our tribe apart and stealing the voice of our people,” Comingdeer said.
NonDoc asked for comment from the Cherokee Nation Election Commission or Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.’s administration regarding the criticisms from Slover and Comingdeer. Communications director Julie Hubbard referred NonDoc to Fears, who said he could not comment on the matter.
In a Facebook post of his own, Sam pushed back against Comingdeer.
“I again want to thank all of my Cherokee friends and neighbors for their support in this campaign. Now that the election is over, I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Tribal Council to make District 7 a better place to live for all Cherokees,” Sam wrote. “We won this election with hard work and dedication, the same hard work and dedication that I will bring to the Council everyday.”
Sam then addressed claims of election fraud.
“Allegations about fraud and corruption are simply attempts by the opposition to undermine the results of this election,” he wrote. “The majority of voters have spoken clearly now and voted twice in a row to elect me to be their representative on council to make sure their interests are always heard. I take this responsibility seriously and thank them for their trust and support.”
Shotpouch wins District 10 in Cherokee Nation runoff
Melvina Shotpouch finished first in the District 10 runoff election with 384 votes (58.8 percent), topping Shaunda Handle-Davis and her 271 votes (41.4 percent).
Shotpouch thanked her supporters with a Sunday morning Facebook post.
“Thank you, first my Savior, family, team and friends. Couldn’t have done this without any of you. I had slow start, with broken ankle, but I want to thank my driver, Deanna, for that time. Looking forward to serving you. Thanks again,” she said.
Handle-Davis also posted on Facebook following the announcement of the unofficial election results.
“Although we didn’t win, I can hold my head high and say I ran an honest, positive campaign!” she wrote. “I truly met some lifelong friends along the way!”
Jack Kidwell comfortably wins at-large district
For one of the Cherokee Nation’s two at-large council seats, Johnny Jack Kidwell finished first by earning 1,525 votes (60.3 percent), while Kyle Haskins received 1,004 votes (39.7 percent).
After the unofficial election results were announced Saturday evening, Jack Kidwell posted a statement on Facebook.
“My family and I are grateful for the support and trust you have placed in me to serve you on Cherokee Tribal Council,” he wrote. “I look forward to the years ahead as we work together for a strong future for all Cherokee citizens!”
Haskins made his own Facebook post Saturday night.
“I want to thank everyone who supported me. You are wonderful Cherokee brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “I am proud to have become a part of your lives. This election has made my life better and I thank you. I pray for our leadership.”