Election Board nominee issues statement on board processes

Election Board nominee issues statement on board processes

OKMULGEE, Okla. — TR 16-089 Confirming the nomination of Vernon Courtwright to serve on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Election Board, is up for approval during the June 18 National Council regular session.

He issued the following statement:

‘I am well aware of the importance of holding fair, impartial elections. The Creek Nation’s current voting policies and procedures are among the best in the nation, but,…they can be better…and they should be.

I served two different terms before on the election board and allowed my last term to expire, as I believe that as many citizens as possible, should be given the opportunity to serve on our tribal boards and that there should be term limits for these boards.

In my opinion, lengthy terms lead to stagnation and resistance to change, which leads to the second reason I left the board.

In the end, I became frustrated with the confrontational attitude that existed in our meetings because I refused to accept the status quo and asked questions and proposed changes that no one but me agreed with.

Things like;

I believed that it was the Election Board’s duty and obligation to try and get as many people registered to vote as possible, and then encourage them to get out and vote! (this took a while, but they finally did take up the cause).

Every election. Absentee voters would call in and question why they had to use no. 2 pencils to mark their ballots, while district voters used black pens. I don’t doubt there are many absentee voters, to this day, that believe their votes can be erased once they reach the Election office.

I agree though that, if there is even a semblance of that happening, we should do something about it. I proposed we buy small, cheap black pens and send them along with our absentee ballots, but was told by the Election Board Manager and the election board, that it was too expensive and was voted down.

Which leads me to things being too expensive. The way we hold elections now with District voting and Absentee Voting is expensive! Training and paying expenses and stipends to poll workers for every election takes up the biggest part of that cost, whereas, with a total Absentee Election it would be less expensive, easier for people to vote and we’d have a lot more participation!

Fewer and fewer citizens are actually going to District polling sites and Absentee voters have decided virtually Every Election, in recent history. Years ago, the Election Board visited the Chickasaw Nation whose elections have been total Absentee for years and they experience voter participation regularly in the 40% range and sometimes more!

In the Creek Nation, 14% is about average.

Again,…my opinion, if the Chief and the National Council had agreed, our last election could have been total Absentee, but the Election Board Manager and the Board decided there was not enough time to implement the Laws and procedures. I disagreed, and was voted down again. Regarding that situation, It’s my understanding that the Election Board is an Independent Agency, which is as it should be, and that the Board itself is totally in charge of what goes on before, during and after elections, but in actuality, in my opinion, it is not.

Dead people Voting – knowing the thoroughness with which the election Board Staff researches their available information, Sometimes I think this is a joke. But these concerns keep surfacing again and again. I do believe a better job can be done utilizing all the information databases available both, within and outside the tribe, but not all Creek Nation Departments cooperate, due to Confidentiality Laws. I understand that, …but all we ever wanted to know was whether anyone had passed away, so we could take them off our eligible voter list. That information was not forthcoming.

I’m someone who believes change can be a good thing! …but it’s not always easy, or simple…and not everyone agrees with it. Everything the Election Board and its Staff does should be totally transparent and forward thinking, at all times.

I will strive to make that happen, but I’m only one person. It will take the cooperation of the rest of the Board, the Election Board Manager and the Staff, to make that happen and if confirmed, I can only hope that this time, it will be different. MVTO!’


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  • Eli Grayson
    June 17, 2016, 11:35 am

    Impressive that Vernon would express what the citizens have been saying for a decade…especially about these lifers on these boards and the stagnation it has created…but let us remember, the boards don’t choose themselves, they are nominated by the chief and confirmed by the council….policy for change should start there.

    • Jason Walls@Eli Grayson
      June 17, 2016, 2:01 pm

      There are numerous tools out there to gain the data that a department may need outside of internal departments. I know that Citizenship shares data with the Election Board but not sure about other departments. There are also tools like the Social Security Death Index that can be used to help scrub data and as a safe guard to strengthen the integrity of information…. Point is there are tools available and I think that with the right conversations this can be fixed.

      • Jacob Narcomey@Jason Walls
        June 18, 2016, 3:28 pm

        How refreshing to know a person who has worked in government and has an opinion and willing to state it and let the chips fall where they may.

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