Although the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tribal Council Election was held nearly a month ago, the election results have not been certified, and the newly elected council members have yet to be sworn in. The reason for the delay has not been publicly disclosed, and even the presumptive winners were not invited to recent proceedings on the matter in Tribal Court.
Former Sitka School Board member Dionne Brady-Howard was elected to the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tribal Council at the beginning of November. She was one of two new candidates winning seats, tying for top vote-earner with her mother Louise Brady. Incumbents Bob Sam and Michael Miller retained their seats, and Lawrence “Woody” Widmark was elected as Tribal Chairman.
But those results are still technically unofficial. Brady-Howard was supposed to be sworn into office in early December. But then she heard that the election results had not been certified as planned, when the Council met on Nov. 18.
“I received a message from a friend who had heard that they weren’t certified, and at that point, I inquired as to what the delay was,” she said. “At that time I did receive an email that stated that there had been a protest regarding the results — as in someone was contesting them.”
According to STA’s bylaws, any qualified voter can contest election results. They must file a written protest within three days of the election certification. It’s reviewed by an election committee, and if the protestor is unhappy with the committee’s decision, they can file a complaint with Tribal Court.
KCAW reached out several times for more information about the court proceedings, and to ask why the election results were being contested. Representatives from STA and Tribal Council have not provided answers to those questions.
While it’s still unclear why the results are being contested, they have made it to the next stage of the process. Brady-Howard said she later was informed that the matter would go to trial.
“There are pretty tight timelines that exist in terms of the time between when a protest is filed, and when the pre-trial needs to happen, when the trial needs to happen,” she said. “I was told there needed to be a trial within five days of the pre-trial conference and a decision within two days of that trial. So I’m hoping to hear something within the week.”
Court was scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9, but in an email to KCAW, a representative from Tribal Court said the proceedings were not open to the public.
Brady-Howard said she does not believe the protest relates to the conduct of any of the candidates who ran for public office. But whatever aspect of the election that’s being contested, the process has already delayed the start for the new candidates’ terms by over a week. Brady-Howard said she’s feeling a bit anxious as she waits for more information.
“One has to be concerned after the way things have played out recently on the national scene in terms of the Presidential election,” she said. “But that being said, I think that I’m just going to hope that the ordinances that the previous Councils have put in place will help streamline the process, and we’ll be able to move forward soon. So right now I’m just trying to trust the process.”
Brady-Howard said she’s eagerly awaiting when she’s sworn in and hopes it will be soon. She’s ready to get to work.
“I’m anxious to get on the Council and just sort of be brought up to speed from a Council perspective as to where the Tribe is heading,” she said.
“In my opinion, the Tribe has come a long way in terms of what they provide. I’m excited to be a part of that. And my whole goal in running was to just bring, hopefully, a different voice and a different lens as we move forward as a Tribe in continuing linguistic and cultural revitalization, and the efforts to support that, and to bolster it and hopefully make a long term difference.”
According to STA’s bylaws, a judge must make a ruling within two days of the trial. If that happens, it would be just in time for the next Tribal Council meeting, typically the third Wednesday of the month.