In secluded meeting, Chickasaw Nation Tribal Legislature extends election by one week

By Joe Tomlinson
Gaylord News

In a brief special session today, the Chickasaw Nation Tribal Legislature met by Zoom to consider delaying its July 27 general election by one week. All elected officials who participated did so by Zoom, but Chickasaw Nation citizens and media were told that no Zoom link was available to the public.

NonDoc staff were told that Chickasaw Nation citizens would need to go the legislative building in Ada to view the meeting, but upon arrival, technological difficulties prevented the vast majority of the roughly 10-minute meeting from being broadcast.

Called by Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby, Tuesday’s meeting resulted in the deadline for receipt of general election absentee ballots being extended by one week, from July 27 to Aug. 3.

After the meeting, senior media coordinator Dana Lance said 10 of the Legislature’s 13 members voted in favor of the resolution, while the three incumbents who are facing challengers in the general election abstained. Based on limited viewing of the Zoom call, it was unclear which legislators actually attended the meeting.

Two NonDoc staff members, Lance, a sergeant at arms and a woman who was attempting to address the technological issues were the only five people in the Chickasaw Nation Tribal Legislature conference room.

Earlier Tuesday, Lance declined to provide a link to the Zoom meeting to NonDoc for journalistic purposes. Another NonDoc staff member, Kylie Hushbeck, is a Chickasaw Nation citizen. She also requested a link to watch the meeting and was denied by Lance and a receptionist at the legislative office. She was told the Zoom link was not available to the public, but only to Chickasaw Nation legislators.

Reason behind election extension

After Tuesday’s meeting, Chickasaw Nation Legislator Scott Wood, who holds Seat 1 of the Tishomingo District, said that the tribe’s ballot vendor in Albuquerque, New Mexico, had “difficulties with their system” that caused the need for the deadline extension. Wood said the Chickasaw Nation has used the vendor in prior elections.

“Everything is pushed back one week, from the count, to the re-count, if there is a runoff — all of that will be extended one week,” Wood said.

Wood added that the deadline extension was needed to give all Chickasaw Nation citizens across the country a chance to get their ballots mailed in. Ballots had been scheduled to be mailed to voters July 8, but “some ballot have been delayed,” according to a July 16 Chickasaw Nation press release.

“We just wanted to make sure all of our citizens had the opportunity to get their ballots in,” Wood said. “We were concerned that we would have a lot of citizens that would not get their ballots in in a timely manner.”

The Chickasaw Nation general election is conducted entirely through absentee ballots. Prior to the deadline extension, if a ballot had been received on July 9, voters had until July 27 — about 18 days — to fill out and mail the ballots. No hand-delivered ballots are accepted, according to tribal rules.

In the July 16 press release sent by Chickasaw Nation executive officer of media affairs Tony Choate, Chickasaw Nation Election Secretary Rita Loder had requested the extension after learning about the technical issues with ballot distribution.

Chickasaw Nation election details

For the 2021 general election, Chickasaw Nation citizens will decide three seats on the Tribal Legislature:

In the Pontotoc District Seat 1 race, incumbent Toby Perkins of Ada will face challengers Monty E. Stick of Francis and Bailey Walker of Ada;

In the Pontotoc District Seat 2 race, incumbent Nancy Elliott of Ada will face challenger Oscar Gore of Ada;

In the Pickens District Seat 4 race, incumbent Shana Tate Hammond of Ardmore will face Wanda Blackwood Scott of Ardmore, who Hammond challenged and beat in 2009.

Two Tribal Legislature seats received no challengers. Neither did the Chickasaw Nation Supreme Court seat up for election in 2021.

For the Pickens District Seat 1, incumbent David Woerz of Ardmore received no challengers and will retain his position.

In the Tishomingo District seat 1 incumbent Scott Wood of Tishomingo received no challengers and will retain his position.

Supreme Court seat 2 incumbent Linda English Weeks of Newcastle also received no challengers and will retain her position.