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Unsettled Ch. 19: Passamaquoddy Tribe restricts right to vote

Filed Under: Law | National | Politics
More on: elections, icra, maine, passamaquoddy, tribal courts

A view of the Passamaquoddy Reservation at Pleasant Point in Maine. Photo by Ken Gallagher / Wikipedia

The Portland Press Herald continues its Unsettled series with Chapter 19 about the denial of voting rights within the Passamaquoddy Tribe (Pleasant Point | Indian Township):
As a result of an unusual 1986 tribal caucus initiative, hundreds of Passamaquoddy had their right to vote in tribal elections taken away because they lived outside Washington County.

A Passamaquoddy living in Steuben – an hour-and-40-minute drive from Pleasant Point – could vote for office there, whereas if he or she lived in equidistant Aurora, he could not, simply because it was over the Washington County line.

It appeared to represent a clear violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Indian Civil Rights Act. Had the Passamaquoddy remained under federal jurisdiction or unfettered state jurisdiction or if the tribe had passed a constitution of its own, the disenfranchised Indians would have had no trouble having their case heard.

But as a result of the 1980 land claims settlement, judicial review of “internal tribal matters” such as this apparently fell into nobody’s jurisdiction at all.

Former Indian Township Gov. Allen Sockabasin and another nonresident tribal member, Gail Dana, tried to challenge their disenfranchisement in the tribal court, a body set up precisely to hear cases involving internal tribal issues. Or so they thought.

Get the Story:
Unsettled Chapter 19: For some in tribe, no right to vote, nowhere to turn​ (The Portland Press 7/17)

Related Stories:
Report faults Maine over dealings with Passamaquoddy Tribe (7/16)

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