Muscogee recount stopped because of ballot box seals

Okmulgee, Oklahoma (AP) 11-07

A tribal justice stopped a recount of ballots in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s principal chief runoff election because of questions about seals on the ballot boxes.

Challenger George Tiger had requested the recount after it was determined that incumbent Chief A.D. Ellis won a Nov. 3 runoff election by 21 votes, 2,313 to 2,292.

Chief Justice George Almerigi ordered a halt to the recount, citing ballot boxes that were not “properly preserved.”

Almerigi and three other tribal justices overseeing the recount voted unanimously to disallow it because they could not determine whether the ballot box from the Bristow precinct had remained untouched.

The seal on the ballot boxes for each precinct is preserved after the original count and before the tribal election board recount, he said.

Bristow precinct judge Bonnie Hughes told the justices that in 14 or 15 years of experience, she had sealed the ballot box with the “numbers up, and that the current Bristow ballot box is now sealed with numbers down.”

The court said it could not determine whether the ballots were properly preserved, whether the ballots are the identical ones counted Nov. 3, and whether they had been exposed to unauthorized people.

In his order, Almerigi recommended that the tribe find an alternative to the current system of sealing ballot boxes.

“Removable seals, such as the tags currently in use, are problematic,” he wrote.

The decision left Tiger “disappointed and shocked.”

“Does the court’s decision mean that there’s a tainted election?” Almerigi asked. “That’s what they seem to be saying. I don’t know.”

Ellis said “it’s time to come together and move on.”

According to tribal election law, the $8,000 Tiger paid for the recount is non-refundable.