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Recommendations of the Legislative Committee to Revise the Election Ordinance

In January 2020, the Legislative Committee decided to focus on recommending revisions to the Tribe’s Election Ordinance QT-3-74, intending to present the proposed revisions to the Tribal Council, followed by a period of Tribal community consultation prior to formal action by the Tribal Council.  On 09/10/2020, the Legislative Committee shared its recommendations for proposed revisions with the Tribal Council.  With the December 2020 Tribal Election less than three months away, the Tribal Council decided to postpone review and discussion of the proposed revisions so close to the election.  On 04/01/2021, the Legislative Committee resubmitted its recommendations to the Tribal Council for its review.  In May 2021, the Tribal Council expressed its desire that the Legislative Committee meet with the Election Board to obtain the Board’s review of the Committee’s recommendations.  On 07/26/2021, the Legislative Committee met with the Election Board and obtained its feedback regarding the Committee’s recommended revisions.  The Legislative Committee summarized the feedback it received from the Election Board and shared it with the Election Board Judge for accuracy.  On 02/02/2022, the Legislative Committee shared its summary of the Election Board’s review with the Tribal Council and expressed its willingness to meet with the Tribal Council to discuss the recommendations.  The Legislative Committee also requested that its recommendations be shared with the Tribal community for an opportunity to share its comments.  On 02/18/2022, the Tribal Council expressed its support for posting the recommendations on the Tribe’s website.  The Legislative Committee worked with Esteban Gomez, Records Retention/Website Specialist, to prepare the posting.

The Legislative Committee made 16 recommendations and each is presented below, together with the rationale for each.  The Election Board completely disagreed with 2 recommendations (#1 and #3) and partially disagreed with 1 recommendation (#4), and these are also shared below.

  1. Voter eligibility limitations: revise Section I.A. of the Ordinance to exclude as eligible voters prisoners in any jail or prison on the date of election, and persons by a court of competent jurisdiction to be incompetent.

Rationale:  incarcerated persons would only be able to vote by absentee ballot, and due to prison security concerns, often encounter delays in mail processing that result in their ballots unable to be returned on time. Incompetent persons are those found by the court to be unable to communicate or to make reasoned choices, which are necessary to vote.

Election Board Response:  disagree, noting that FedEx, the overnight courier used by the Board to send absentee ballots, does not deliver to prisons.

  1. Additional qualification for candidacy: revise Section II.A. of the Ordinance to require that candidates must maintain their residency throughout the term of office elected to.

Rationale:  a candidate who is a resident is more likely to regularly attend Tribal Council meetings and to have personal experience with the challenges affecting life on the Reservation, compared to a non-resident. By requiring that the newly-elected candidate maintain residency throughout his or her term, he or she will continue to be able to regularly attend meetings and have personal experiences that yield insights about Reservation issues. NOTE: although the Tribal Council is empowered per Article VI, Section 1, of the Constitution to fill the office of a member of the Council who automatically forfeited his or her office for remaining absent from any three consecutive regular or special meetings without sufficient reason, since this additional qualification regarding post-candidacy behavior is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, the Tribal Council may not be able to enforce it.

Election Board Response:  agree.

  1. Expansion of the residency qualifications for candidacy: revise Section II.B. of the Ordinance to allow candidates to reside within either Imperial County, California or Yuma County, Arizona, or within a fifty-mile (50) radius of the Quechan Tribal Administration building on the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation.

Rationale:  the severe lack of available housing precludes many Tribal members from residing on the Reservation, so they reside off-Reservation in nearby cities and towns where housing is available. Many of them possess education and experience that led to their employment by the Tribe or Tribal entities such as the casinos or the Quechan Housing Authority, and they easily commute from their off-Reservation residences to their on-Reservation workplaces each day. Those residing within the fifty-mile radius could reasonably be expected to be able to travel to the Reservation to attend regular and special meetings of the Tribal Council. The expansion of the residency area would provide those Tribal members the opportunity to be candidates, and potentially provide voters with greater choices of candidates.

Election Board Response:  disagree.

  1. Allow the Assistant to the Tribal Secretary to be presented with nomination petitions and absentee ballot requests: revise Section II.C.1. and Section IV.C.5. of the Ordinance to allow, in the absence of the Tribal Secretary, the Assistant to the Tribal Secretary to be presented with nomination petitions and absentee ballot requests.

Rationale:  authorizing an additional person to receive and process such time-sensitive documents will avoid delays that would otherwise be caused by the absence of the Tribal Secretary, or of the President and Vice-President in the case of nomination petitions.

Election Board Response:  agree as to absentee ballot requests, but disagree as to nomination petitions since who can receive nomination petitions is fixed by the Tribe’s Constitution at Article V, Section 1.

  1. All elections to be conducted at polling place: revise Section III.C. of the Ordinance to clearly provide that the Election Board shall conduct all elections at the polling place.

Rationale:  reduces confusion by correcting an omission that resulted in an incomplete sentence in the Ordinance.

Election Board Response:  agree.

  1. Rename Eligible List as Eligible Voter List: revise Section III.D.4. of the Ordinance to clearly provide that the Election Board is obligated to prepare and maintain an up-to-date official list of eligible voters, referred to as the Eligible List in the Ordinance.

Rationale:  also reduces confusion by using the common name for the list.

Election Board Response:  agree.

  1. After the close of the voting, delay the tally until the next day: revise Section IV.D. of the Ordinance to have the Election Board Judge declare the election process adjourned until 8:00 am Arizona Time the following day, at which time the tally shall commence.

Rationale:  by the time the polling place closes, the Election Board will have worked at least twelve (12) hours straight, and would face at least another four (4) hours of work to complete the tally. In such circumstances, the Election Board is highly likely to be exhausted, with an increased likelihood of making errors during the tally. The break would allow the Election Board to rest and to conduct the tally refreshed.

Election Board Response:  agree, but recommends adjournment until 9:00 am Arizona Time.

Alternative:  as an alternative to delaying the tally until the next morning, the Legislative Committee and the Election Board Judge discussed the idea of using optical scanning equipment to speed up the current vote counting process, reduce errors, and report the election results on Election Day.  We invite comments about whether voters support or oppose this alternative.  Your feedback will help us decide whether to invest more time and effort exploring how to implement this alternative.

  1. Ensure the counting of all discernable votes on the ballot that contains one or more rejected votes: revise Section III.D. of the Ordinance to clearly provide that if the Election Board is unable to determine from a ballot the choice of the voter the vote for that office or seat shall be rejected, while counting the votes for all other offices or seats for which the choice of the voter is obvious.

Rationale:  most elections involve ballots with several offices and seats, along with several candidates for each. For example, a ballot may have several candidates for the offices of President and Vice-President, and the seats for five Council Members. If the Election Board, upon review of the ballot, finds that the voter correctly marks an “X” next to the name of one candidate each for the offices of President and Vice-President, then those votes count. But if upon further review, the Election Board finds that a voter mistakenly marks an “X” next to the names of six candidates for the five Council Member seats, the Election Board will be unable to determine which five candidates the voter voted for. The Election Board must reject these votes for the five Council Member seats. The revision clarifies that even though a ballot may contain a rejected vote or votes, the Election Board must count the votes for all other offices or seats for which the choice of the voter is obvious.

Election Board Response:  agree.

  1. Limit contests to be made by a voter who participated in the election being contested: revise Section V.A. of the Ordinance to require a contestor to have in fact voted in the election being contested, rather than allowing any eligible voter to contest.

Rationale:  a voter who voted in an election and who also believes that his or her right to vote was impaired under any of the five grounds listed in Section V.A. is more likely to vigorously defend his or her rights, compared to a voter who did not vote in that election.

Election Board Response:  agree.

  1. Clarify the lack of qualifications grounds for contest: revise Section V.A.2. of the Ordinance to clarify that the phrase “eligible to the office” is incomplete, and can be clarified by referring to the qualifications for holding the office or seat desired.

Rationale:  the clarification will assist parties to an election contest to focus only on whether the candidate who was elected, but whose right to the office is contested, either did or did not possess one or more of the qualifications for holding the office or seat desired.

Election Board Response:  agree.

  1. Establish an evidence requirement as part of the contest statement: revise Section V.C.1 and 4. of the Ordinance to require the constestor to provide evidence that he believes will support the particular grounds of the contest that he included in his contest statement.

Rationale:  a contest statement must set forth four types of information, with the fourth type being a description of the particular grounds of the contest, such as that a candidate gave a bribe to the Election Board Judge, or that a candidate has not resided on the Reservation for the minimum amount of time necessary. An evidence requirement also would require the contestor to provide evidence supporting the grounds, such as an affidavit by a witness, a photograph, or a copy of a cancelled check.

Election Board Response:  agree.

  1. Require notice to contestee to include a copy of the contest statements: revise Section V.D. of the Ordinance to require the Election Board to provide a copy of the contest statement and the affidavit filed by the contestor with the Election Board, to the contestee.

Rationale:  ensures that the contestee has all filings necessary to file his answer.

Election Board Response:  agree.

  1. Increase ballot inspection bond amount, while also authorizing a hardship waiver: revise Section V.D. of the Ordinance to raise from $25 to $100 the amount of the bond to be posted by either a contestor or contestee seeking to inspect the ballots. The Election Board Judge would be authorized to waive the filling of the bond upon either party’s showing of undue hardship.

Rationale:  the purpose for the bond is to provide the Tribe with the means to recover the cost and expenses incurred due to a ballot inspection. Since the last opportunity to change the bond amount occurred in 1979, wage and fringe costs alone have substantially increased over the past 43 years, so an increase is warranted. Given the large increase proposed, a waiver by the Election Board Judge is authorized to assure that the higher bond amount does not create a barrier to an election contest.

Election Board Response:  agree.

  1. Increase quorum required for the community meeting for the Alternative Contract Procedure: revise Section V.E. of the Ordinance to increase the quorum from ten percent to thirty-five percent of those who voted in the election. Also require that the quorum must be maintained, or if lost, the meeting shall be adjourned.

Rationale:  the increased quorum would better assure that the interests of the majority of voters are represented at the community meeting by requiring the presence of a larger number of voters, while still providing a forum to hear election contests brought on certain grounds. The requirement to maintain the quorum would also help by assuring that the larger number of voters remain present and engaged in the community meeting.

Election Board Response:  agree.

  1. Establish the vote requirement needed for judgment by the voters: revise Section V.E. of the Ordinance to provide that a majority vote of the voters present shall represent the judgment of the voters.

Rationale:  the Ordinance does not expressly state the number of votes required from the floor on the matter of whether or not the election results contested should be certified or set aside by reason of the proof or lack of proof of misconduct on the part of the Election Board or any member thereof. Establishing a clear vote requirement gives all participants in the community meeting called for under the Alternative Contest Procedure an understanding of what is required for a judgment.

Election Board Response:  agree.

  1. Establish a limit on the amount of costs that a prevailing party may recover: revise Section V.F. of the Ordinance to provide that any costs and expenses of the election contest, not to exceed $1,000, incurred by the prevailing party shall be assessed by the Election Board, charged against the losing party, and paid to the prevailing party. This excludes the costs and expenses of the inspection of the ballots.

Rationale:  there currently is no limitation on the amount of costs and expenses that a prevailing party can expect to recover. An express limitation would provide notice to the parties to an election contest so that they can decide how much they are willing to spend and the most they may be able to recover. The $1,000 limit reflects the current costs that may be charged for legal assistance and document preparation.

Election Board Response:  agree.

The Legislative Committee appreciates the Tribal Council’s authorization to share through the Tribe’s website these recommendations with the Tribal community, so that they may review and provide their feedback.  We hope that by sharing these recommendations and inviting your feedback, we show our commitment to improving how we share information. Please send any comments or questions to

For more information about the Legislative Committee please visit our page on the Tribe’s website here.

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