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Judge approves order for Freedmen vote in Cherokee election

A federal judge on Wednesday approved an agreement to allow the Freedmen to vote in the Cherokee Nation principal chief election Saturday.

The order from Judge Henry Kennedy states that the Freedmen will remain citizens of the tribe and will be allowed to vote "in the same manner as all other Cherokee citizens, without intimidation or harassment, and to have their votes counted on the same basis as all other Cherokee citizens."

The tribe is required to notify the Freedmen, who are the descendants of former slaves, of their right to participate in the election. They can vote on Saturday, by absentee ballot or on a walk-in basis from now until October 8.

All other Cherokee citizens will also be able to vote on a walk-in basis until October 8 during designated dates, the order states.

Further, the tribe agreed to "ensure that all Cherokee Freedmen citizens have access to and receive rights and benefits on the same terms as any other Cherokee citizen, whether the benefits are provided by funds from the United States or from the Cherokee Nation, or any other source" pending resolution of the case or further order of the court.

An estimated 2,800 Freedmen descendants are citizens of the tribe. The federal government maintains their rights are protected by an 1866 treaty.

A reported 1,233 Freedmen registered to vote in the first election for chief. Their ranks are enough to sway the close race between incumbent Chad Smith and challenger Bill John Baker.

Fewer than 300 votes separated the two candidates in the first election, which was held in June. The results, however, were thrown out due to uncertainties.

Get the Story:
Election Commission follows orders from U.S. District Court (The Cherokee Phoenix 9/22)
Freedmen to remain Cherokee Nation citizens until federal lawsuit is resolved (The Oklahoman 9/22)
Federal judge OKs Cherokee agreement with freedmen (The Tulsa World 9/22)
Freedmen vote deal approved (The Muskogee Phoenix 9/21)
Tribal lawmaker seeks probe (The Muskogee Phoenix 9/21)
Cherokee Councilmen Alleges 'Backroom Deal' In Freedmen Case (News on 6 9/21)

Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Decision:
Cherokee Nation Registrar v. Nash (August 22, 2011)

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