IDRS administers and certifies tribal government elections. We also assist tribes to develop or refine their tribal election ordinances. This is another way IDRS, acting as an impartial third-party, can contribute immediately to the resolution of existing conflict while helping to build the foundation for orderly decision making over the long run.
* Do Your Tribal Members Believe That Tribal Elections Will Be Conducted Fairly — No Matter Who Is Running For Office?
Tribes usually seek our assistance in administering and certifying their elections when there has been controversy surrounding previous elections. This typically occurs where there are deep divisions and a lack of trust within the community. In this atmosphere, there may be significant numbers of people who fear that the election process will be “rigged” to serve the political objectives of certain candidates.
Usually, where such fears exist, the election will be appealed. Typical allegations are that “ineligible” voters were allowed to participate in the elections; the voting box was “stuffed”; legitimate ballots were lost or destroyed; errors were committed in the counting of votes; voters were not fully and properly notified of the election; some absentee voters received their ballots too late; valid ballots were disqualified while invalid ballots were counted; there was improper behavior during the voting; the ballot was purposely made confusing; etc.
* Typically, Tribes Have Relied On The BIA To Try And Resolve Conflicts Which Arise As A Result Of The Election.
The losing faction always has the option to protest the election and invoke formal appeal procedures available to it through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). A formal written complaint has to be filed leaving it ultimately to the BIA officials to establish the facts and issue a decision. The BIA is then cast in the role of adjudicating the formal appeal and deciding upon a “winner” and a “loser”.
By the time the BIA rules on the appeal, and on the counter-appeals that inevitably follow, a long time can go by without having a legally recognized tribal government in place. This is not only confusing to the tribal members but also to outside organizations that are trying to maintain a relationship and engage in transactions with the tribe.
* IDRS’ Offers A Different Approach—We Resolve The Issues Before The Election
Rather Than Afterwards
When IDRS administers and certifies an election, it follows a step-by-step approach that is intended to meet the short and long term needs of the tribal community. It contracts with the Tribal Council to conduct the election and, in effect, becomes empowered to work with the tribe’s Election Committee or Board in administering it.
The IDRS Mediator will usually begin by sitting down with representatives from all of the prominent factions that are competing in the elections. With the help of the Mediator, they meet, discuss and resolve the procedural issues and incorporate these agreements in an “Elections Procedures Agreement” they all sign.
Important agreements are reached at this meeting about how the election will be run. Among these are: (1) who shall be officially eligible to vote, (2) when and where the election should be held, (3) procedures for declaring candidacy, (4) the tribe’s criteria and process for determining a candidate’s eligibility to run for office, (5) the process and timeline for “absentee voting”, (6) the criteria for validating and invalidating ballots, (7) defining what is acceptable behavior at the polls on election day, (8) when, where, and how IDRS will count the votes, and (9) the length and nature of the appeal process.
Once all the representatives sign this agreement, IDRS implements the process as outlined.
* IDRS Prepares A Formal Report And Certifies The Election Results.
When the elections are completed and the agreed upon appeal period has expired, IDRS prepares a formal report and certifies the election results. The report is sent to the tribal council with a copy sent to the BIA.
Selected Examples of Elections IDRS has Administrated and Certified
IDRS has conducted numerous elections for tribes in California that were embroiled in internal conflicts and preferred to limit controversy by having a well-recognized organization with a reputation for its impartiality conduct and certify the election for them.
We have conducted multiple elections for Robinson Rancheria (Nice, CA) and the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians (Redwood Valley, CA), as well as elections for the Elk Valley Tribe (Crescent City, CA), the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians (Santa Ana, CA), the Santa Rosa Tribe (Hemet, CA), the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians (Lakeport, CA), the Guideville Band of Pomo Indians (Ukiah, CA), and the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe (Furnace Creek, CA). In every case, the elections resulted in an orderly transition to a new tribal government without any legal challenges submitted to IDRS, the tribe, or the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Contact: John Feliz, Tribal Chairperson, Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians (707) 485-8723; and Clara Wilson, Tribal Chairperson, Robinson Rancheria, (707) 274-7014.
* How Can You Arrange For IDRS Election Services?
If you would like to contract with IDRS to conduct and certify your next election, please call and ask for either the IDRS Elections Secretary or an IDRS Mediator who administers elections. We can discuss designing an approach tailored to fit your unique needs. Rates will cover our costs in the office and being on-site to staff the polls on Election Day. The costs can vary slightly depending on the number of voters, the transportation costs, whether there is “absentee voting”, and the number of “run-off” elections. Contact IDRS at least two and one half to three months prior to your scheduled Election Day in order to allow sufficient time for all the necessary steps to be taken to ensure an open and fair democratic election.
To arrange for IDRS Election Services, please phone: (916) 482-5800. Fax:(916)482-5808. or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org