Osages in New Mexico, California, Oklahoma and Pawhuska say they haven’t received their absentee ballots yet. The absentee ballot request deadline was May 15.
The Election Board asked Osage voters to allow five to seven business days to receive absentee ballots because Maryland-based TrueBallot Inc., the election company who conducted the 2010 Osage Election, is mailing the ballots. The five to seven days have passed and now Election Day is only four days away.
Osage Nation Election Supervisor, Alexis Rencountre, said that Osages should be receiving their absentee ballots any day now and stressed that once the ballots are in the U.S. Postal System it is out of their hands.
Co-organizer of the Association of New Mexico Osages, Richard Chissoe, wrote on the organization’s Facebook page that he had not received his absentee ballot and that a poll among their members (about 10) showed that no one in their membership had received their absentee ballots yet either.
“Receiving ballots but having an unreasonably short amount of time to get them to Pawhuska on time is not much different than not getting one at all,” Chissoe wrote.
“Having to get your ballot in the mail by the next day after it arrives in order to ensure it's received on time and counted is simply not reasonable. And forcing someone to spend $15-$20 to overnight it is equally unfair,” Chissoe wrote. “Last time I tried, US Postal will not certify overnight delivery to a P.O. Box. The cut-off deadline date for requesting a ballot should still, worse case scenario, ensure that the constituent has a minimum of a week to send in their ballot regular mail and still be received by election day [sic].”
A voter who has requested an absentee ballot may still vote in person, but that’s not always an option for those living out of state. Any absentee ballot not received by 10 a.m. on Election Day will count as a provisional ballot – which is only used in the case of a tie or close race.
ON Election Board Chairman Walter Hopper said the lists containing the names and addresses of voters with completed absentee ballot requests were sent to TrueBallot on April 20, April 27, May 4, May 11 and lastly on May 16. He said that duplicate ballots can still be requested but the chance of the ballot arriving at its destination is small.
“The Election Board and Office has administered the election in a manner that we hope assures public confidence in the confidentiality, accuracy, efficiency and fairness while upholding the integrity of the election process,” Hopper said in a statement. “We see every election as an opportunity to improve the process, increase outreach to voters and encourage participation in the Osage government.”
Newly appointed Osage Nation Supreme Court Chief Justice Meredith Drent, who lives in California, said she didn’t receive her absentee ballot and that when she called the Election Office to check on it's status she was treated rudely. She did not get the name of the employee she spoke with.
“I never received my ballot either, so I just called and a rude woman answered the phone and told me I should have received it, and if I wanted a new one, it would take 7 days for it to get to me. No apologies. She wasn't helpful. She didn't even ask for my name so I had to give it to her. Horrible customer service,” she wrote May 29 on the Facebook page Osage Community for Responsible Citizenry in response to Chissoe's thread.
Drent later added that her issue was resolved and election office staff said they never received her request. But she said she wasn’t worried about her absentee ballot because she was flying home for the election.
The Osage News will be following up on this story and candidate fines that were due today (May 30). The Election Board meets again Thursday (May 31) at 2 p.m.
According to the ON election office, a total of 1,677 absentee ballots have been requested for the 2012 election. In the 2010 Osage General Election there were a total of 1,370 absentee ballots counted, outnumbering the in-person votes which totaled 1,258.
Some Osages are reporting that candidate campaign signs are disappearing in Fairfax. Also reported are signs in Pawhuska and across the Reservation being pulled up, thrown behind bushes or damaged.
Cynthia Pradmore wrote May 27 on the Facebook page Osage for Fiscal Responsibility that candidate signs were stolen from her yard in Fairfax.
“Looked at our yard this morning and all the Candidate Signs, had been stolen from our yard and other neighbor's Yards,” she wrote. “Sorry people, You are more than welcome to put more back in the Yard if you want. I think that you call that Stealing, if you wanted some, I am sure you could ask for them and the Candidates probably would've gave you some....”
Candidate Becky Johnson wrote under the same thread that it was noticeable signs were being stolen in Fairfax.
“It looks like someone stole everyone's signs all over Fairfax except the big ones driven in with posts. Craziness!” Johnson wrote.
For photos of candidate campaign signs visit the Osage News Flickr page.