Defending Oneida Tribal Democracy & Voting Rights: A Primer For The Saturday March 28, 2015 General Tribal Council Meeting At 10 AM

The following is from the Petitioners’ letter published in the General Tribal Council Meeting packet for the 10 a.m. Saturday March 28, 2015 GTC Meeting.


OBC Resolution 03-13-02-O says: “The Oneida Constitution reflects an intent to promote the widest possible participation of Oneida people in their governance, and…the use of [the SEOTS] polling site is likely to increase participation in tribal elections[.]”

On October 27, 2013, GTC rejected a petition to eliminate the SEOTS polling site and voted instead to continue including the SEOTS polling site in Tribal elections.

On January 7, 2014, GTC voted to include the election of Oneida Judiciary in the 2014 General Election which would have included the SEOTS polling site.

On June 16, 2014, OBC Vice-Chair Melinda Danforth admitted to GTC that she, OBC, and the Judiciary Transition Team screwed up the qualifications for judicial officers and asked GTC to agree to delay the Judiciary election, and GTC allowed the delay.

GTC was never told that allowing that delay meant OBC, the Oneida Election Board (OEB), and the Oneida Law Office (OLO) would try to exclude the SEOTS polling site from the Special Election of the Judiciary despite GTC’s directives and against the Oneida Constitution’s intent to promote the widest possible participation of Oneida people in their governance.

When five GTC members took these matters to the Appeals Commission, the OBC, OEB, and OLO all fought to continue excluding the SEOTS polling site rather than just admit that it was wrong for them to try to do so and simply agree to present GTC an amendment to include the SEOTS polling site in all future Tribal elections.

Instead, OBC adopted OBC Resolution 08-28-14-A which claims that the OBC has the ability to make a “one-time exception to the conduct of the Special Election [to] include polling sites in Oneida and Milwaukee,” as if voting rights are somehow a gift from OBC, OEB and OLO to GTC rather than a civil right.

In other words, OBC, OEB, and OLO are claiming that the Constitution’s intent and GTC’s directive to include the SEOTS polling site in the Judiciary election are somehow subordinate to their ability to exclude the SEOTS polling site on a  mere whim.

How could any Tribal election not affect the governance of the Oneida people?

Why would OBC, OEB, and OLO ever choose to intentionally exclude the Milwuakee SEOTS polling site from any election given the Oneida Constitution’s intent and GTC’s expressed political will?

Why wouldn’t OBC, OEB, and OLO simply agree to let GTC vote on the matter rather than claim that they should have the power to arbitrarily & capriciously make that important decision for GTC?

It’s clear now: GTC must defend its civil and voting rights against the unjust actions of the OBC, OEB, and OLO.

The future of the Oneida Tribe depends on it.

On August 20, 2014, five GTC members filed a class action lawsuit to defend Tribal democracy & voting rights against OBC, OEB, and OLO (Docket 14-TC-173), but the Oneida Appeals Commission’s Trial Body wrongly dismissed that case on August 21, 2014, and wrongfully denied the request by Tribe members for a Declaratory Ruling whether the SEOTS polling site should be included in all Tribal elections.

On September 22, 2014, that wrongful decision was appealed, and on December 18, 2014, the Appeals Commission’s Appellate Body ruled that the Trial Body’s inaction was arbitrary & capricious and violated the Indian Civil Rights Act and the Oneida Tribal Constitution, and violated the Oneida Tribe members’ right to due process, thereby violating GTC’s civil and voting rights as a class.

The Appellate Body remanded the case back to the Trial Body despite the GTC members’ motion for recusal of those same hearing officers who had violated GTC’s due process & civil rights in the original complaint. The Trial Body refused to recuse themselves during the hearing held on January 16, 2015, and a decision by the Trial Body was supposed to be issued within 30 days, but the Trial Body failed to issue a decision before they were finally disbanded on March 1, 2015.

On August 28, 2014, the petition now before GTC regarding the Judiciary election and other election matters was submitted which seeks the following:

For a GTC Meeting to be held in a timely manner on a Saturday or Sunday starting no later than 1 p.m. to allow for greater membership participation, and that GTC vote whether (1) all Tribal elections include the SEOTS polling site, including the inaugural Judiciary Election as was GTC’s intent by voting to include the Judiciary in the 2014 General Election; (2) to nullify any Judiciary Election that excludes the SEOTS polling site that may have occurred before the requested meeting is held; (3) a new Judiciary Caucus be held & that due notices be made in Kalihwisaks & prominent places 10 days prior to that Caucus & the inaugural Judiciary Election; (4) to address other Tribal election issues.

On September 27, 2014, a Special Election of the Oneida Judiciary was held despite the pending litigation and the petition submitted by GTC members.

On September 29, 2014, a representative of the Oneida Enrollment Department who observed the September 27, 2014, Special Election submitted her concerns in a letter to the OBC & OEB regarding their failures to follow Election Law procedures, including the lack of verification that the Oneida polling site’s ballot counting machine was empty and prepared before the polls opened at 7:00 a.m. that day.

Despite the various violations of the Election Law during the Special Election of the Judiciary, the OBC certified the Special Election results upon the submission of the OEB’s Final Report at the October 8, 2014, OBC meeting.

On November 17, 2014, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court held an open hearing on a petition submitted by Oneida Tribal members seeking the dissolution of Wisconsin State Statute 801.54, ‘Discretionary Transfer of Civil Actions to Tribal Court.’ The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear that petition and conduct a general review of the State’s transferral of court cases to Tribal Courts in the autumn of 2015.

In other words, 80% or more of the Oneida Judiciary’s projected caseload could possibly disappear based on the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decisions this year.

What must GTC do to protect its voting rights in all elections going forward?

1. Demand that all Oneida Tribal elections, both General and Special elections, include the Milwaukee SEOTS polling site in keeping with the Constitution’s intent.

2. Demand that the rescheduling of any Tribal election must be approved by GTC with a 2/3 (two-thirds) majority hand-counted vote.

3. Demand that a locked ballot box and sealable ballot envelopes be on hand at all times in case of the failure/unavailability of electronic ballot counting machines.

4. Demand that the ballot counting process be video-recorded in the presence of a police officer and that the recording be available upon request by GTC members.

5. Demand that all election results (General and Special) be certified by a 2/3 (two-thirds) majority hand-counted vote of General Tribal Council rather than by the OBC who have an obvious conflict of interest approving their own election results.

6. Demand that GTC maintains and reserves the right to nullify any Tribal election at any time if information comes to light which undermines the integrity of an election as determined by a 2/3 (two-thirds) majority hand-counted vote of GTC.

7. Demand that Election Board members who are immediate family members of candidates for and current members of the Oneida Business Committee, Oneida Judiciary, and the other elected Boards, Committees and Commissions be dismissed from Election Board duties, and that the term “immediate family” be defined in accordance with the Judiciary’s Canons of Judicial Conduct, which states: “the term ‘immediate family’ shall be defined as husband, wife, mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, first or second cousin, step-parent, or someone who is recognized by the Oneida General Tribal Council and/or its delegate as a member of the Judge’s extended family.” [For example, the nephew-/niece-in-law of a judicial officer.]

8. If #7 is too complicated, DEMAND the use of an external auditing firm to conduct the election competently, fairly and legally, since the Oneida Business Committee, the Oneida Election Board and the Oneida Law Office have each demonstrated that they are individually and collectively incapable of performing the important task of protecting the integrity of the vote in a Tribal democracy.

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