Cherokee redistricting plan OK'd

Tulsa World (OK) - Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Author: JARREL WADE World Staff Writer


A Tuesday Tulsa World story incorrectly stated the effects a voter redistricting map would have on two Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilors. Councilors Cara Cowan Watts and Lee Keener were elected to terms that end in 2015. Due to term limits, Cowan Watts will not be seeking re-election. This story has been corrected. 

TAHLEQUAH - A Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting Monday turned into a battle among councilors over a redrawn voter-district map that would force one councilor out next year and leave others fighting for the same seat. 

One side of the split council argued that if gerrymandering was going to be done for some councilors, "then let's do it for all" sitting councilors. 

The other side, which prevailed, argued that the version of the map passed in committee last month was drawn with no gerrymandering and was based on legal facts. 

The Tribal Council approved the map - which would change the Cherokee Nation's number of voting districts to 15, with one councilor per district - by a 10-7 vote. It now has five districts, with three councilors per district. 

The act now goes to Principal Chief Bill John Baker for approval or veto. 

The redrawn districts would prevent Councilor Buel Anglen from running for re-election next year because his home would become part of another councilor's district, and that councilor is not up for re-election until 2015. 

At issue for the council were whether voters with "bad addresses" could be removed from data that dictate the lines of the map and whether essentially forcing a councilor out of the running in 2013 was constitutional. 

The fight reached a breaking point when Tribal Council Speaker Tina Glory Jordan wouldn't allow Councilor Cara Cowan Watts, who had proposed two alternative maps, to read a failed motion into the record. 

Another councilor then challenged the speaker's decision, but a vote on that challenge was also defeated. 

Cowan Watts then proceeded to recite her failed motion from memory anyway, arguing that the map that was approved would fail to comply with a court decision that necessitated the redistricting. 

Councilor Julia Coates presented the third of three alternative maps. 

Anglen said the council's action in approving the map that left him out "is absolutely a shot at me." 

"I just don't believe that my constituents in my district are getting the best bang for their buck from this council." 

Coates said, "I can't imagine anything more blatant ... when we are showing that there are other ways of doing this without eliminating people from this body." 

Councilor Chuck Hoskin Jr. argued that the battle could have been avoided if the three alternative maps had been brought to previous committee or subcommittee discussions. 

"I think what happened tonight was a stage show for lawsuits to come," he said.