Rather than comply with order to fix ballot, tribe will appeal it

Posted 1/12/21

RIVERTON (WNE) — When a Wind River Tribal Court judge ordered the Northern Arapaho Election Committee to repair its Nov. 19 election or be held in contempt, the committee asked for time to …

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Rather than comply with order to fix ballot, tribe will appeal it

Posted

RIVERTON (WNE) — When a Wind River Tribal Court judge ordered the Northern Arapaho Election Committee to repair its Nov. 19 election or be held in contempt, the committee asked for time to file an appeal instead.

Tribal Court Special Judge Mike Barton ordered Dec. 18 that the 46 absentee ballots — with 140-vote capacity among them — were to be repaired.

Northern Arapaho Business Council candidate Al Addison’s name had been removed from all ballots following his qualification in the primary election.

Pursuant to a Nov. 13 order by Barton, the committee fixed the in-person ballots but did not recall absentee ballots.

Barton had written that “not only Addison was disenfranchised, but … 140 [votes] were disenfranchised because they were not given the opportunity to vote for all candidates for the Business Council. … The general election cannot be characterized as fair and just in any way when a candidate’s name is left off of some of the ballots.”

The election committee was ordered to find a way to fix its election by Dec. 29 or be held in contempt of court.

Instead, the committee jointly has filed a notice of appeal in tribal court, dated Dec. 28.

“[Barton’s] orders would essentially require that portions of the recent tribal election be repeated,” wrote Northern Arapaho General Council attorney Rich Berley in the notice of appeal. “A partial repeat of the election would of necessity be inconsistent with the timeframes and deadlines set forth” in tribal code.

Berley argued that upheaval of the seated council would lead to further litigation.

“This is a legal issue regarding the  allocation of the tribe’s sovereign authority among multiple agencies of the tribe’s government,” Berley wrote.

The attorney added that a court of appeal would be, in his client’s view, the best entity in which to hear challenges to the tribal court’s jurisdiction over the election committee, a facet of tribal government.

“The election judges deny they harbor any special animosity to … Addison,” the notice reads.

It concludes with the request for Barton to forestall the consequence of contempt of court, pending an appeal.

If an appeal is not to be granted, Berley wrote, “a conference [should] be scheduled at which the details of compliance may be clarified.”

Berley did not clarify through which court the case would be routed if Barton granted the appeal.

Addison wrote in a Dec. 31 filing that he did not object to the judge’s second order — imposing possible contempt of court — to be stayed pending an appeal.

However, he wrote, the judge’s first order — in which ballot correction was ordered — “should still be in effect and enforced.”

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