For the second time in less than two months, members of the Ute Indian Tribe are submitting names of nominees for possible election to the governing tribal business committee.
A tribal judge on the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation in eastern Utah found the March 14 primary election unconstitutional. Judge Leon Perank stayed a present restraining order halting a general election scheduled for April 2 and approved a motion to have the entire election process conducted over.Tribal public relations spokesman Larry Cesspooch said following seven hours of testimony last week, Judge Perank ruled that a mandate by the four-member election board forcing tribal members to sign their ballots was unconstitutional. The board's decision went contrary to the tribal constitution, which states the balloting process will be secret, he said.
In addition to the constitutional problems, Cesspooch said the court found "possibly conspiracy" and ineligible voters allowed to cast ballots in the primary election.
Tribal member Madeline Martinez and business committee nominees Wayne Perank, Tibbs Ridley and Clarice Ignacio hired former tribal attorney Gary Montana to bring the matter before the court. Several voters refused to cast their ballots because they were required to sign their names.
"Judge Perank called for elections to be conducted over once again. This time, nominations for the three business committee seats will be open within 10 days. Within 15 days after nominations close, the primary election will be held. The general election will be held within 15 days following the primary. The current election board will be disbanded and a new board made up of Bureau of Indian Affairs officials will be formed for this special election only," said Cesspooch.
The election board is traditionally selected by the six-member business committee and includes one representative from each of the tribe's three bands and a fourth member to act as secretary.