Tribal Election Day is Sept. 9

Tribal Election Day is Saturday, Sept. 9.

This year’s Tribal Council candidates for three open seats are incumbents Tonya Gleason-Shepek and Chris Mercier, and challengers Mark Mercier, Michael Langley, Lisa Leno and David Lewis.

Angela Schlappie withdrew from the race in late July, but too belatedly to have her name removed from the ballot.

The three winners will serve Tribal Council terms through September 2020.

According to the Tribe’s Member Services Department, 4,133 Tribal members will be 18 or older on Election Day and eligible to vote.

Ballots were mailed to registered Tribal voters on Wednesday, July 26. Candidate statements appeared in the July Tilixam Wawa, which was mailed first class to Tribal members in mid-July.

During the Aug. 9 Tribal Council meeting, the issue of some Tribal members not receiving ballots was discussed and it appears many of those who were missing their ballots are members of the Chief Tumulth family, who were designated for disenrollment and provisionally disenrolled until the Tribal Court of Appeals ruled last year that the Tribe waited too long to revoke their membership.

Russell Wilkinson, a member of the Chief Tumulth family, said during the Tribal Council meeting that he and his family members submitted about 58 signature verification forms and about 25 percent of them had not yet received ballots.

Tribal Attorney Rob Greene said he would contact the Election Board regarding the issue and added that he thought board members would handle the situation “very expeditiously.”

Mike Portwood, who is a member of the Chief Tumulth family, said his two daughters did not receive their original ballots mailed by Automated Election Services of New Mexico. He received his Tribal ballot in the regular mail in early August, he added.

Portwood said he worked with Election Board member Dan Stroebel to get everything fixed and his daughters received their replacement ballots via an overnight mailer on Aug. 23.

“I am still not sure what happened to the ballots,” Portwood said. “We didn’t move. We’re at the same address we have been at for the last 14 years.”

Debi Anderson, who is also a member of the Chief Tumulth family, said the last five missing ballots for her family were delivered by Friday, Aug. 25.

“Some family had to call the Election Office three times to receive a ballot, and we hope these types of issues will be resolved in the future,” she said.

“It was certainly problematic as first, but I do think that we have all of our family handled now,” Wilkinson said. “The lack of a centralized database sure seems to be the root of the problems.”

Election Board Chair Deanna Johnston said the biggest problem she sees is Tribal members who have moved, but failed to notify Member Services of their new address. The Election Board, like Smoke Signals, downloads Tribal member addresses from Member Services’ database.

On Monday, Aug. 28, approximately 60 returned ballots were sitting on Johnston’s desk in the Election Board office located in the Community Center.

“We always tell people that if their information has changed in the last six months to let us know,” Johnston said.

Johnston said Election Board members with the assistance of Tribal Attorney’s Office staff have been proactive in trying to resolve any issues regarding missing ballots.

Registered Tribal voters who have not yet received a ballot should contact the Election Office at 503-879-2271 before Thursday, Aug. 31. After Tuesday, Sept. 5, there is not sufficient time to overnight a ballot and get it returned in time, so Johnston suggests that Tribal members walk in from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, and receive and cast a ballot at the Tribal Community Center, 9615 Grand Ronde Road.

She also cautioned that Tribal voters who are going to place their ballots in the mail collection boxes at the Grand Ronde Post Office do so by Friday, Sept. 8. Ballots dropped off on Saturday morning may not be delivered in time to the Election Board to be counted.

In addition to voting for three Tribal Council candidates, Tribal voters are being asked to weigh in on three advisory votes with a combined seven questions. A “yes” vote means the voter is recommending Tribal Council consider the specific topic or action.

The first advisory question, which is yes or no, asks if the Tribe should consider investing in Elder market-rate units in Tribal housing.

The second question asks if the Tribe should consider investing in the cannabis industry and gives voters three options: medical marijuana, recreational marijuana or hemp?

The final advisory vote asks if constitutional enrollment requirements should be amended to do a possible three things:

  • Remove the requirement that the applicant be born to a parent who was a Tribal member at the time of the applicant’s birth?

  • Remove the requirement that the applicant be born to a parent who was a Tribal member at the time the application is filed, if still living?

  • Or replace the requirement that an applicant have 1/16th Grand Ronde blood as defined as all Indian blood derived from an ancestor on the Restoration Roll with the pre-1999 amendment requirement that an applicant have 1/16th Indian blood and descend from a member of the Tribe?

Winners will be announced after ballots are counted on Saturday, Sept. 9.