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Snoqualmie Tribe calls for new elections
By Seth Truscott
Mending a disputed May election that ended up closing tribal offices for several days this summer, the Snoqualmie Tribe plans to hold new elections in early 2010.
The tribal council agreed to new elections in January following mediation by the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs this fall. Mediators and the tribal council agreed that until the new election results are decided, the council will be made up of its pre-May 2009 members: Kanim Ventura, Nina Repin, Frances de los Angeles, Robert Hinzman, Ray Mullen, Jo-Anne Dominick, Arlene Ventura, Mary Anne Hinzman, Margaret Mullen, chairman Joe Mullen, and alternates Staci Moses and Suzanne Ventura.
“There are still disagreements within the tribe, but there is a road map to having an election, to finally seating a tribal council that everyone feels is legitimate,” Tribal Administrator Matt Mattson said.
The tribe will require declarations of candidacy prior to the election. Elections will be monitored by a third party, likely a private company, selected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Mattson said that monitored elections will not be a permanent move for the tribe.
According to Mattson, a variety of problems have crept into tribal elections since 2007, including nomination mistakes — council members are nominated from the floor — and concerns with presiding officers understanding rules of order.
In 2007, the tribe had begun work on its new casino. That year, the Snoqualmies began developing their election laws.
“The stakes were substantially higher,” Mattson said. “Adhering to the rules became that much more important.”
Election rules were created and copies mailed to all tribe members. However, the rules were not yet clear on how an election could be challenged or upheld.
That problem came to a head again last May, when the results of several races were in dispute and a candidate challenged election results. The tribal court upheld the challenge.
Electoral growing pains might be expected for a tribe only formally recognized in 1999. Mattson said it has been a difficult process reconciling oral traditions with a new, alien written parliamentary procedure.
“Some tribe members might feel that an election law is unnecessary,” said Mattson, who disagrees. “The tribe is reaching a point where its organization, its business interests, are significant enough that formal procedures are needed.”