Today, August 9, 2014, a community meeting occurred at the Isleta Resort & Casino concerning the election process to amend the Isleta Tribal Constitution. The Isleta Tribal Council is proposing 12 amendments to our Constitution.
The Election Day to vote on the amendments is set for Saturday, September 20, 2014. The vote will occur at the gymnasium at the Isleta Recreation Center.
The following officials were present:
John Antonio, Superintendent of the Southern Pueblos Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
Raymond Fry, Superintendent of the Northern Pueblos Agency of the BIA. He is also the designated Chairperson of the Election Board.
Election Board Members attending the meeting were:
Richard Jaramillo Jr.; &
Isleta Tribal Council members attending the meeting were:
Larry Jaramillo, Vice-President;
Juan Rey Abeita;
Douglas Jiron; &
Governor Eddie Paul Torres was also present along with the Tribe’s attorney, Pablo Padilla.
Council members that did not attend the meeting were:
Michael Allen Lente, President;
Verna Teller, Secretary;
Barbara Sanchez; &
Joseph “Cougar” Lucero.
Approximately 50 tribal members attended the meeting.
John Antonio announced that they mailed out 2,861 registration packages to tribal members eligible to vote. From that number, thus far, only 117 people registered. From the 117 that registered, 42 persons requested absentee ballots. 103 registration packets were returned as undeliverable.
The deadline to register is August 26th.
Tribal members may register to vote with the Isleta Enrollment and Census Department.
QUESTIONS & COMMENTS
Tribal members asked a variety of questions and they made various comments. The following are highlights of the meeting.
Sharon Lente-Burch, a former Isleta Tribal Judge, asked: How many people need to vote for there to be a valid election?
Response: To have a valid election, 30 percent of the people that register will need to actually show up and vote.
[For example, if 150 people register to vote, then they will need a minimum of 50 people to show up and vote.]
Tim Salvador, a former Council member, asked: Why are 18 year olds allowed to vote when the Tribal Constitution requires voters to be 21?
Response: Federal regulations permit 18 year olds to vote and the federal law will be controlling despite the conflicting requirements of the Isleta Constitution. Pablo Padilla, the tribal attorney, also added that the issue of the voting age was litigated during the last attempt to amend the Constitution. According to Padilla, the Isleta Appellate Court determined that federal law would be controlling.
Tim Salvador asked: How did you choose September 20th as the polling date? He expressed concern that the Tribe has many traditional activities occurring during September and that the voting activities will interfere with our “traditional way of life.”
Response: The Council selected the date of September 20th. The Election Board considered having the vote in October. However, this is also an election year to vote for new council members and a governor. So, pushing back the election date from September to October on the constitutional amendments would’ve created confusion.
Raymond Fry, however, made it clear that the Council has authority to push back the election date by resolution.
Tim Salvador expressed concern that there was a very low turn out for the community meeting. He said that “this is just only a handful of people.” He also made it clear that he is opposed to the election going forward.
Response: Vice-President Larry Jaramillo said, “We can’t force people to care.” We’ve done everything we can to let people know about the election and the meetings. He also said that “more people attended their livestock meeting than the meeting about the constitutional amendments.” Jaramillo said, “So be it, if we only have 117 people vote.”
Jennifer Jojola immediately replied by telling the Vice-President, “You are not understanding us.” Your response “shows a lack of respect.” This is our opportunity to ask questions and make comments. What needs to happen — “is for us not to put people like you back on the Council.”
Vice-President Jaramillo replied, “Ok, we need to put an end to this meeting,” if this is the way we are going.
Governor Eddie Paul Torres spoke up and he said that he is getting a clear message from the questions and comments that he is hearing. He stated, “It’s a red flag, an alert” that the people do not want only a small handful of people voting to change the Tribal Constitution.
The Governor said, “I certainly don’t want 117 making that decision for me.” So, maybe we need to take a look at what we are doing, slow down, and maybe put a stop to the election. He said that he does not want this to divide our community like the last time and that we should not allow it to destroy us.
Council member Josephine Padilla spoke up by explaining that it was premature to call off the election. She is not in favor of stopping the election.
Council member Cynthia Jaramillo said that she only recently received her registration package and submitted her registration. She said that she expects that there will be a flood of people that will register.
Governor Torres brought the meeting to a conclusion by telling the people that that the council meetings are open and that the people are welcomed to attend and express their concerns. He said the next council meeting will be on Tuesday, August 12th, at 9:00 a.m.
By Christopher Abeita