PEMBROKE — Those behind a petition drive to get a special election on a constitutional amendment to reduce the size of the Lumbee Tribal Council from 21 to seven will have to work twice as hard as they thought.
According to Carvicous Barfield, chairman of the tribe’s Board of Elections, 1,500 signatures will be needed to get a referendum on the amendment, not the 750 signatures that those behind the petition drive have been saying are needed.
The constitution allows a special election to be held on constitutional amendments if 5 percent of the tribe’s eligible voters ages 18 and older petition the Board of Elections to do so. Barfield said that the tribe’s Enrollment Office reports there are about 30,000 eligible voters, meaning the petitioners must produce about 1,500 eligible signatures to require a special election be held.
In a letter in today’s edition of The Robesonian, Eric Locklear , a leader in the petition drive, says that on Friday the Board of Elections changed the number of required signatures from 750 to 1,500. Locklear could not be reached for comment.
Barfield said Wednesday that she twice told Locklear that the 750-signature estimate was based on there being 15,000 eligible voters, an unofficial number that she had received from the tribe’s Enrollment Office. She said that the new figure of 1,500 needed signatures that she gave Locklear on Friday was based on a corrected report provided the Board of Elections by the Enrollment Office.
Barfield said that the Board of Elections met Saturday and neither Locklear nor any other of a handful of tribal members supposedly behind the petition drive attended.
“He (Locklear) hasn’t sat down and discussed anything with the Elections Board,” the chairman said. “We could answer some of his questions and we have some questions for him.”
Locklear has said that there is still time before the November elections to amend the constitution to allow for the reduced number of council members. He told The Robesonian earlier this month that “using the written language of our constitution it could be approved in 30 days.”
But Barfield, who says that the Elections Board is “responsible for protecting the integrity” of the elections process, doesn’t agree. She said that the board will not allow an election to be held until all tribal members are aware of what the election involves and what the amendment means.
“The people have to be educated before an election will be held,” she said. “We’re not going to exclude anyone.”
Locklear last week told The Robesonian that he planned to submit petitions calling for the special election this week. Barfield said Wednesday that no petitions have been filed with the Board of Elections.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.