The Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe will conduct another general election following the nullification of the Sept. 25 results because of a violation by the Tribal Election Committee.
Tribal judge Gene O'Brien ruled Friday that a new election must be scheduled during the next 60 days, though the election itself will occur at an unknown, later date. The new election will allow previous candidates to drop out or new candidates to appear on the ballot, along with the constitutional amendments from the Sept. 25 election.
"If you're going to have a brand new election, you're going to have to take it from square one, with a new ballot and new candidates in an entirely new election," O'Brien said.
In a statement to the court, tribal attorney Pete Sferrazza said the election committee violated Title 14 of the election code by mailing absentee ballots to all registered tribal voters from the office of Automated Election Services in Albuquerque, N.M., instead of from the committee. Automated Election Services provides automated vote tabulation services to the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe.
All ballots were mailed on the same day, but some tribal members did not receive ballots because some were still in the possession of Automated Election Services on Sept. 24, one day before the election, according to the statement. The Tribal Election Council then asked for a new election.
This year, all 804 eligible tribal voters were supposed to have been sent absentee ballots without request, a first-time procedure for a tribal election.
The ruling nullifies Chairman Alvin Moyle's defeat of challenger Jack Allen by five votes, along with challenger Laura Nihoa's defeat of Secretary Susan Willie and challenger Rulan Stands' defeat of council member Daniel Allen.
An amendment which passed concerning a code of ethics for the Fallon Business Council, an amendment that failed specifying tribal bloodline requirements and another that failed giving authority to the Fallon Business Council to create ordinance rules and regulations concerning the loss of tribal membership are all nullified.
Candidate Jack Allen submitted a challenge to the election, citing a mishandling of 44 ballots rejected by the vote tabulation machine, the failure of voters who voted at the polls to turn in absentee ballots and the numbering of election ballots numerically higher than the number of eligible tribal voters.
Allen requested a manual recount of all ballots or a new election of only the chairman's race with the same candidates as the Sept. 24 election. He said he was disappointed that an entirely new election will take place.
"The way things work on this Indian reservation, if the challenger wants a new election, it fails, but if the incumbent wants a new election, it passes," Allen said. "I thought I had a strong case for a chairman-only election. It would save the tribe a lot of money."
A new election may cost the tribe $15,000 to $25,000, Allen said.