A vote for elections

October 9, 2013

The Lumbee Tribal Government, desperate for legitimacy among the people it was created to serve but unable to get much traction, finally took a step in that direction this week.

Another opportunity awaits tonight.

On Tuesday, the government’s Supreme Court not only removed Tribal Speaker Pearlean Revels from office, it piled on with additional punishments, including banning her from any tribal-related activities for five years. If Revels behaves, she has the opportunity in five years to ask for reinstatement.

We aren’t experts on the tribal constitution, but will assume the four justices — a fifth recused himself — acted within the powers they are granted by that document. The banishment was in response to a series of blunders from Revels, including the theft of financial documents from the tribal administration.

We hope, for the sake of the government and the people it serves, that this will be addition through subtraction.

So for now, District 3 is without representation, a hole that could be plugged in the upcoming tribal elections, if they are held. Revels had been a candidate for re-election, and two challengers remain after her banishment.

Tonight, there is a tribal hearing that potentially could resolve the ongoing dispute on how to pay for the elections, which had been scheduled for Nov. 12.

The chairman of the Elections Board, Carvicous Barfield, says $26,000 was budgeted for the elections, but Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks and Tribal Administrator Tony Hunt say elections are not an approved use of what they say are housing dollars.

Further, Brooks argues that the Elections Board is inflating the amount of money it needs for the election, pointing out that there is no chairman’s race, so voting will be limited to the six districts in which there is more than a single candidate. He also says the vote can be done on the cheap by limiting the number of polling sites and paid judges, and relying more on unpaid volunteers.

Barfield counters by saying that the $4,500 in filing fees is about $21,000 short of what is needed to ensure elections that the tribal members can trust.

We don’t know what will happen tonight, but feel secure in saying that any government that is seeking legitimacy will make that task taller by skipping on free elections that can be trusted by the voters.

Thankfully the decision is in the hands of the tribe’s court system, which is the only branch of the tribal government that isn’t stuck in the shooting-itself-in-the-foot mode.