By JOSEPH MARTIN
ONE FEATHER STAFF
When it comes to voting and members of tribes, much of the attention has been turned to North Dakota. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from the Native American Rights Fund to stop North Dakota from implementing voter ID laws requiring a physical address on photo IDs. With many reservation residents, this has them scrambling to come with any documentation that shows proof of residency. Many reservation residents don’t have a physical address, only a post office box.
The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) argues that the North Dakota restrictions will have a negative impact on tribal voters because many of them lack physical addresses on their homes, and that’s no fault of theirs. NARF Staff Attorney Jacqueline De León said, “North Dakota Native American voters will now have to vote under a system that unfairly burdens them more than other voters. We will continue to fight this discriminatory law.”
However, when it comes to Qualla Boundary voters casting ballots, there have been no problems reported in early voting. Local elections have a particular interest to tribal voters with two tribal members and one descendent running for office. One tribal descendent is currently unopposed as the incumbent Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer (R-Marble).
Tribal member Brad Letts (D-Cherokee) is seeking another term as N.C. Superior Court Judge. In Swain County tribal member Ben Bushyhead (D-Bryson City) is seeking election as Swain County Board of Commissioners Chairman. Bushyhead is running against a write-in candidate Mitchell Jenkins. Tribal descendent Rocky Sampson (D-Cherokee) is challenging incumbent Curtis Cochran (R-Swain).
Politicians running for offices in both the county and state have been seeking an audience with Tribal Council, along with the superintendent of Swain County Schools seeking support for a ¼ cent sales tax to help the schools.
Tribal Council passed a resolution endorsing Letts’ campaign. The resolution, submitted by Wolfetown Reps. Jeremy Wilson and Bo Crowe, states, “Bradley B. Letts is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, an active member of the community and an asset to the (Tribe).”
Principal Chief Richard Sneed emailed tribal employees a list of candidates who he says have either supported tribal issues or pledged to support tribal issues. Sneed said he is taking a non-partisan approach to elected officials. “There is one primary determining factor in deciding who the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians supports: Are they a friend of the Eastern Band on local issues and Indian Country on the Federal level.”
Sneed’s list of incumbents includes Republicans: U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, N.C. Sen. Jim Davis, N.C. District 119 Rep. Mike Clampitt, District Court Judge Kristina Earwood, Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran and N.C. District 120 Rep. Kevin Corbin. Incumbent Jackson County Commissioner Ron Mau is seeking a seat as the chair.
Sneed’s list of incumbent Democrats includes: Swain County Commissioners Roger Parsons and Danny Burns; Jackson County Commissioner Boyce Deitz, Jackson County Board of Commissioners Chair Brian McMahan, N.C. Superior Court District 30B Judge Bradley Letts, Jackson County Sheriff Chip Hall. Incumbent Swain County Commissioner Ben Bushyhead is seeking the office as Swain County Board of Commissioners Chairman.
Sneed also listed those seeking office who’ve pledged support for the Tribe. They include Republicans: Swain County Commissioners candidate Holly Bowick, 30th District Court Judge candidate Leo Phillips. The Democrats Sneed lists include: U.S. Rep. candidate Phillip Price, N.C. 50th Senate District candidate Bobby Kuppers, N.C. House 119th District Rep. candidate Joe Sam Queen, Jackson County Commissioners candidate Gayle Woody and Swain County Sheriff candidate Rocky Sampson.
“As principal chief of the Eastern Band, I appreciate the many allies we have across North Carolina and the United States,” Sneed said. “We rely on these allies when pushing legislation important to the (tribe) and look for their support on issues affecting the sovereignty of tribes across the U.S.”