MCN elections and the usage of social media
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — Social media has changed the game when it comes to politics.
U.S. politicians use platforms like Facebook or Twitter everyday to address national issues and also create controversy.
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Election Board has not escaped the chaos social media can cause, especially to those who may not fully understand its capabilities.
During the 2017 MCN National Council Seat B election, complaints and accusations of colluding surfaced due to the usage of a hashtag.
According to the AP Stylebook, a hashtag is a term starting with a number or hash sign (#) in a social network post; it conveys the subject of the post so that it can be easily found by users interested in that subject.
A candidate had been using a hashtag to promote their campaign.
Confusion arose with other candidates and citizens to the point where the MCNEB held a special meeting to educate about social media tools.
“They thought [MCN] departments were endorsing that candidate by the way that candidate was tagging themselves in conversations with the happenings of the tribe,” MCNEB Manager Nelson Harjo Jr. said.
MCNEB has taken measures since then to clarify to voters and candidates about the usage of social media during the election season.
New additions to MCN Code Annotated Title 19 ‘Elections,’ under the section entitled ‘anonymous campaign literature’ were introduced during the Health, Education and Welfare Committee meeting in January for candidates who plan to utilize social media for campaigning.
The new legislation would require candidates to create a separate account with any social media outlet used by the candidate during their campaign.
Harjo issued a disclaimer before expounding on the new code’s subject.
“As of today, this legislation is not in effect because the Council basically…postponed this,” he said.
He said a candidate endorsing any certain platform through any type of communication was one of the main reasons why the new code came through the legislative pipeline.
“We’re just wanting to say, if you do have a particular message and you are running for office you need to own that message,” Harjo said.
The Council postponed the passage during the January Quarterly Session with direction given to the MCNEB to host a Q&A session for elected officials and potential candidates.
The Q&A would be designed to help participants understand the utilization of social media and the importance of endorsements.
A glimpse of MCN registered voters versus users on Facebook could possibly give insight as to why this legislation was created.
According to information from Statista.com and the MCNEB’s Facebook page, a female MCN voter in the 61 and over range is one of the lowest percentages of users on Facebook.
This does not necessarily mean social media is not present in Indian Country politics.
Harjo expects the trend of utilizing social media will be seen even more so in upcoming elections.
Which comes to the question of how exactly the Election Board will be able to police this new policy if it is enacted?
“If there was a 100% fireproof, foolproof way you can tackle social media, somebody would have already did it,” he said. “Someone would have already had that plan laid out in black and white, everybody would following that method.”
Harjo admitted social media is hard to police and that his office would not be monitoring Facebook or Twitter constantly to make sure rules are being followed.
“We would be more like a repository for any complaints that other candidates or citizens might bring to us,” Harjo said.
He said policing policy goes farther than the department’s authority.
“We can’t dictate Facebook’s policies,” he said. “I hope people don’t think we can take it that far.”
Harjo said the legislation is not an attempt to mute anyone’s voice or ability to campaign, but a form of responsibility placement on candidates and elected officials.
He said once the details are worked out in regards to the new code, it will become part of the general information given during candidate fairs, which are held for anyone interested in running for elected office.