Phyliss Anderson: Mississippi Choctaws deserve new leadership

Statement from Phyliss J. Anderson, council member and candidate for chief of Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Our tribal people clearly stated on both June 14th and July 5th, they are ready for new leadership. Sadly, Beasley Denson and his backers from Atlanta, in desperation, have once again gone on the attack to spread half-truths, lies and rumors.

These are the facts. On July 5th, in a run-off election that was conducted professionally and without the hint of impropriety, the Chahta people voted by a margin of 55% to 45% to elect a new Chief. Almost 2,000 Tribal members voted to reject the politics of threats, intimidation and the well-publicized and documented interference by outside interests groups, namely those in Atlanta. It is unusual for an incumbent to have all of his election rivals openly unify against him in a run-off as was the case here. The result was that his share of the vote only increased 1%. Such was the determination of the Chahta people to vote Beasley Denson out.

As to the complaint petitions, these were filed because of supposed voting irregularities -- not foul play as has been falsely reported by the incumbent's campaign.

The facts are simple. In Pearl River, some 200 people were in line, waiting to vote at 8 pm when the polls closed. The Tribal Election Commission, acting on precedent and with legal counsel found these tribal members had the right to cast their ballot in this important election. This is a decision that most local election authorities have the power to make.

Furthermore, in considering the complaint filed in response to this decision, the Election Commission found that counting or not counting these votes would not have made a material difference in the outcome of the election - as the final vote count showed.

The Tribal Election Commission, appointed by Miko Denson and approved by Tribal Council, acted independently and rightly ruled the petition was without merit. They found it was in the best interest of the Tribe to protect voter rights and allow tribal members to cast a ballot.

As for Beasley Denson, I can say there is one thing I agree with him on and that’s when he said “the most important thing for our Tribe is the protection of our sovereignty." The most fundamental element of sovereignty is the right of the people to choose their leaders in a free and open election. This principle is embedded in our Tribal Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. To disenfranchise the 2,000 Tribal members who voted for change in an admittedly open and fair election is immoral and an insult to our ancestors who fought so hard for our right to vote.

I am confident, with another fair and open election, our tribal members will return to the polls and tell Beasley Denson his time is up. Our people want new leadership. We deserve a voice and a transparent government. We deserve better! It is time to put an end to dirty politics and get to work for our tribal people.

Related Stories:
Editorial: Democracy tested with Mississippi Choctaw election (7/14)
Mississippi Choctaw council orders new election for chief's post (7/11)
Editorial: Mississippi Choctaws make history with woman leader (7/8)
First woman to lead Mississippi Choctaws wants to be called chief (7/7)
Mississippi Choctaws pick Phyliss Anderson as first woman chief (7/6)
Mississippi Choctaw chief and top rival head to run-off in July (6/16)
Unofficial results from election for Mississippi Choctaw chief (6/15)
Another candidate enters Mississippi Choctaw chief race (4/21)
Candidate for Mississippi Choctaw chief challenges incumbent (3/22)

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