African-Native American Genealogy Forum
Was the Cherokee election legal?
I was an unofficial poll watcher at Claremore, Oklahoma during the Cherokee voting on March 3, 2007, when they were deciding whether to expel the descendants of the freedmen from the tribe. Here is the letter I sent to Chief Chad Smith regarding my observations:
Dear Chief Smith,
As I told you I planned to do, I went to District 7 to observe the Cherokee Nation voting procedures last Saturday, March 3, 2007. What I saw was very discouraging, and brings into question the integrity of the voting process. I will give you a brief summary.
1. Security was almost non-existent. An officer arrived just before 9:00 a.m., but he didn't stay because only two officers had been assigned to 3 districts (which included several polling places). When we had problems and I called him, he stated that he could not come because he was at Vinita and they were having problems over there too. I also know they had problems in Chelsea. The officer also stated that he was having trouble getting in touch with the election inspector!
2. The election was held in a building with an adjacent open bar right there in the same building. People could go in the bar and get a beer, then go through the back into the polling place and vote, then go back to the bar and get another beer.
3. The front door of the polling place was kept locked. I observed several times when people seemed to be waiting for several minutes to be let into the polling place. It is the first time I have ever seen a polling place locked. (Of course, they could enter through the bar without any locked doors!)
4. There was a big white truck that kept coming and going all day. I assume it was delivering voters. (I have heard that Cara Cowen was having a party nearby. I assume that people were coming back and forth from the party to the polling place.) Around 4:00 p.m., there was a young woman who came out of the polling place and got in that big white truck, on the passenger's side. She was carrying a ballot in her hand. I immediately called the officer to inform him, but he couldn't come.
5. All day, I observed that there seemed to be a lot of people who would go in the polling place and didn't come out for long periods of time. Some 20 minutes, some several hours. I couldn't understand what was going on. I assumed they were standing around in the polling place, just hanging out. After I reported the young woman leaving with the ballot, four of these people came out and left.
6. Around 6:00 p.m., a man came with an envelope. In the envelope was a ballot. I believe this was the ballot the young woman had taken around 4:00 p.m. However, it is possible that was another ballot that had been taken out. I have also heard that people who had not registered to vote were being allowed to vote simply by showing their CDIB card.
7. Around noon, there was a group of six people who were standing right in front of the polling place smoking cigarettes and talking. They were talking to everyone who entered the polling place. One of them waved down a man who was trying to go in the door to vote, and the man came back out and talked to them, and then went in to vote. I called the election commission and reported this. No officer came.
8. There were about 3 or 4 other times when a single individual stood out in front of the polling place for 5 - 10 minutes and talked to everyone who was entering. I do not know whether they were trying to influence their votes or not. Once again, there was no officer to closely monitor this behavior.
9. I am not absolutely sure, but I believe that Mike Oliver left for a short time.
10. I wrote down an exact time and description of everyone I saw enter. In many cases, I wrote down what time they left. I have not had time to put this data in a spread sheet yet.
11. As soon as the officer arrived, I introduced myself to him and identified myself as an unofficial poll watcher. He invited me inside, and I met Mike Oliver and Cara Cowen. I'm not sure what Cara Cowen was doing in there. She was not voting and she was not an election officer. She just seemed to be hanging around. I thought this was inappropriate because she had clearly taken a public stand in favor of disinheriting the descendants of the freedmen. I made it clear to the election officials that I had driven from Oklahoma City to be a poll watcher. They called the election commission and informed them that I was there.
Overall, it seemed that the people in charge of this polling site did not take the election seriously. It seemed like a party atmosphere was occurring inside. People who went in to vote were allowed (perhaps encouraged) to stand around and chat. (Perhaps eating and drinking beer?)
I will send you a more detailed report after I have compiled my data.
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