Opinion

Opinion: Carter Center observes Cherokee Nation election





"The Cherokee Nation had difficulty electing its principal chief, so much so that members called in the Carter Center to observe the most recent vote and judge whether it was free and fair. We normally observe elections only in politically troubled countries abroad but believe that the contentiousness and fundamental voting rights issues at stake -- and not just for the Cherokees -- justified this exceptional mission.

Simmering beneath the election process all along has been the crucial issue of voting rights for the former slaves known in the tribe as Freedmen, who are Cherokee citizens of African origin and who have had to fight in the courts to be able to vote.

Cherokees, formerly of Georgia and now mostly in Oklahoma, number about 300,000, 56,000 of whom are registered voters. About 15,200 turned out for an election in June. After four attempts to certify the winner in the contest between incumbent Principal Chief Chad Smith and challenger Bill John Baker, the Cherokee Supreme Court set a rerun vote vote for September 24, which the Carter Center observed."

Get the Story:
John Stremlau: Election highlights black Cherokees' right to vote (CNN 10/19)

Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Decisions:
Vann v. Salazar (October 11, 2011)
Cherokee Nation Registrar v. Nash (August 22, 2011)

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