Every year, five Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal members work diligently to uphold fair and precise Tribal elections along with maintaining the election ordinance throughout each of the committee’s processes.
Adopted in August of 2007, the ordinance is a part of the CPN Constitution and establishes the official rules and procedures for conducting Tribal elections. The committee includes a chairman, vice-chairman, secretary, assistant secretary and marshal. Each member takes an oath to protect and “defend the Nation’s Constitution and Laws of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and will cause the elections of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation to be conducted fairly, impartially, and in accordance with the laws of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.”
CPN member Gary Bourbonnais holds the title of chairman, and although he has served on the committee for 35 years, his passion to uphold the Nation’s Constitution remains.
“It’s very important to me that we can offer our services to help ensure that every voter gets to vote,” Bourbonnais said.
Duties and responsibilities
Bourbonnais’s role as chairman requires him to preside over each member and holds responsibility for all of the Election Committee’s activities.
David Bourbonnais has served on the committee for 34 years and currently serves as its vice-chairman. In this role, he assists the chairman with conducting elections and presiding in his absence.
With 20 years of serving on the committee, secretary Carrie Kieffer records and maintains minutes for all meetings and discussions pertaining to an election as well as files records with the CPN Secretary-Treasurer within two days of a committee meeting. The assistant secretary, Jenny Affentranger, has volunteered for 14 years. She maintains Kieffer’s duties in her absence and helps conduct the elections.
As marshal, Julia Floyd’s role includes preserving order at the polls as well as enforcing all election laws. On Election Day, specially-appointed clerks keep separate records of the CPN members voting, which the committee’s chairman frequently cross-checks. This year, she celebrates 13 years of service on the committee.
Voting and absentee ballots
This year, Tribal members nationwide have an opportunity to cast their votes for Chairman and the annual budget as well as confirm CPN Supreme Court justice nominees for 3 and 7, and those residing in Districts 1 and 4 will select legislative representation. To ensure each legislator has approximately the same number of constituents, the population of Citizen Potawatomi within an area determines jurisdictional boundaries. When deemed necessary, legislators vote on redistricting. The most recent changes occurred in March 2017.
The committee partners with the CPN Tribal Rolls Department to access Tribal member information, including addresses, and then sends out voting information to every eligible Citizen Potawatomi member. For details on updating addresses and contact information, visit potawatomi.org/citizenship.
In-person voting occurs on the last Saturday of June from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., as detailed in the CPN Constitution. This year’s Election Day is June 26. CPN members 18 years and older by Election Day are eligible to vote, and can request an absentee ballot by mailing their correct address, roll number, birthdate and legal signature of the requestor to:
CPN Election Committee
PO Box 310
Tecumseh, OK 74873
Requests for absentee ballots must be postmarked no less than 20 days prior to the election. Additionally, the election committee must receive the absentee ballots before 10 a.m. on the last Saturday of June.
If a CPN member did not complete their absentee ballot and wishes to vote in-person on Election Day, they must bring their unused ballot to the polling place. Officials will then confirm no ballots have been received and issue a new one for the voter to fill out in-person.
Additionally, candidates can designate one poll watcher. According to the ordinance, each poll watcher must be a CPN member and at least 21 years old, and they cannot be a convicted felon, tied to any crimes involving election laws of the Tribe or “ever found civilly or criminally liable for breaching a fiduciary or contractual duty to the Tribe.”
Candidates must turn in their poll watcher selection to the committee in writing, no less than one week prior to Election Day. The ordinance states, “Poll Watchers may not interfere in any way with the conduct of the election, but may observe only. Any poll watcher interfering with the election or attempting to electioneer in any way may be ejected from the poll area by a marshal or law enforcement officer.”
Any voters in line at the polling place at 2 p.m. on June 26 will still have the chance to cast their vote. To receive a ballot, the ordinance requires CPN members to present an official Tribal ID and sign the voter register acknowledging they received an unused ballot.
For those who are physically unable to cast their vote, the committee can approve that they obtain assistance.
The ordinance outlines that committee members transport all election materials to a designated counting room where they unlock the ballot box, remove ballots and count the votes. Electronic votes made via a machine are tabulated as soon as an individual inserts their ballot “or as soon as reasonable possibly thereafter.”
To close the election process, each committee member ensures no ballots remain in the ballot boxes. They also check the total votes for absentee ballots for each candidate; transcribe the totals, including rejected, spoiled and unused ballots as well as total ballots printed; provide written signatures to certify the election results; present the certified abstract to the public; and deliver copies of the certified abstracts to the CPN Business Committee, Tribal court clerk, and election committee file in the CPN Secretary’s office.
The committee presents election results during General Council, which begins at 3 p.m. the last Saturday of June.
“Our main goal it to make sure everybody has a chance to vote, and we maintain everything we can to make sure everything is up to date and that elections are conducted fairly,” Bourbonnais said.
To learn more about the committee and CPN elections, visit cpn.news/ordinance.