October 11, 2013
PEMBROKE — The chairman of the Tribal Elections Board said the recent uncertainty about the upcoming election will not impede how elections are carried out.
The Nov. 12 elections had been on hold as the Elections Board and the tribal administration disagreed about the cost of the elections and how to pay it.
But the Lumbee Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that $21,313 be found so elections can proceed as scheduled. The court said the administration has until Tuesday to provide the money. It was unclear Friday where it would come from.
Elections Board Chairman Carvicous Barfield said election officials had continued to prepare for elections despite the dispute.
“We’re ready,” she said. “We were limited in what we could do, but we did prepare the absentee ballots to go out. We mailed them (Friday) morning. We expect the elections to be carried out without any problems.”
Barfield announced last month that the elections were “suspended” until money was available to pay for them as mandated by the Lumbee Constitution. In response, Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks filed a petition on Sept. 23 with the tribe’s Supreme Court asking that the Elections Board be ordered to hold the elections as scheduled.
Barfield has argued $26,000 was budgeted for the elections, but administrators say that is housing money and could not be used to hold an election. Eighteen candidates paid $4,500 in filing fees, leaving just more than $21,000 that Barfield said is needed.
Tribal Administrator Tony Hunt has said that the elections could be held for a lot less — about $8,000 — because there is no chairman’s race, which requires a vote in all the districts. The administration said the money could be found by eliminating the salary and travel costs for each of the five Elections Board members; using volunteers to administer the elections; cutting the number of judges at the polls; and opening only one polling site in each of the contested districts.
Barfield said the court sided with elections officials argument that the tribe did not need to cut corners on the election.
“The election is not about the council or the administration or the Elections Board,” Barfield said. “This has always been about the Lumbee people. This is their election and that is what is important.”
Seven district council seats, with one unopposed, are up for election on the 21-member council.
Scott Witten works for Civitas Media as editor of The Red Springs Citizen and The St. Pauls Review.