On February 28, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold a lower court ruling stating that 15 Tribal Council voting districts is constitutional according to a Cherokee Nation press release.
“The boundaries of these districts variously follow county lines, highways, rivers and zip code boundaries,” Justice James Wilcoxen wrote in the Supreme Court’s opinion. “Not in every instance are these districts contiguous or compact. This court does not find that there is a sufficient basis to interfere with the actions of the Tribal Council.”
The decision follows a ruling in January by a Cherokee Nation District Court judge that ruled the Tribal Council followed proper legal channels within the Cherokee Nation Constitution when voting to redistrict from five to 15 districts. The few who did not vote for the redistricting appealed to the Supreme Court.
The new districts were drawn to keep communities intact while balancing the number of constituents served by council members around 7,000 per district.
“There is no perfect science to drawing new boundaries for any redistricting plan, but the majority of our legislative body did its best to keep the continuity of communities together,” Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree said in the releae. “The calculations and technology used to create these new districts were more accurate in placing an equitable number of constituents in each district than what’s in use now.”
The council consists of 17 elected positions, consisting of two at large seats, with staggered four-year terms – nine are up for election on June 22. Candidates for the June 22 elections must file March 4-6.
Geo Information Systems officials at the University of Oklahoma have been hired by the Nation to help place citizens in the appropriate districts in time for the June election.