2020 Nooksack Tribal Council Election is set aside by the Nooksack Tribal Court

Office of the Tribal Attorney

For immediate release

Deming, Washington

On March 29, 2020 the Nooksack Tribal Court ruled that the 2020 Tribal Council General Election is set aside, and a general election with the same candidates will need to be rescheduled.

“The most important right a sovereign self-governing people have is the right to govern themselves through inviolate democratic processes as established by law, and the most important duty of the Court in maintaining a democratic society is to uphold the rule of law and the right of the people to govern themselves,” wrote Rajeev 0. Majumdar, Judge Pro Tern, Nooksack Indian Tribe.

In overturning this election Judge Majumdar pointed to the ancient history of the people who make up the Nooksack Tribe, and who organized themselves under self-government “to establish justice.” He looked to the Nooksack Constitution, the Nooksack Code of Laws, regulations, Nooksack appellate decisions, to the tribes who are party to the Point Elliot Treaty, to the laws, regulations, court holdings of the United States of America, and to common law principles.

He found that there were errors in the election sufficient to change the outcome of the election:

  1. The election was unsupervised, as required by law. This falls squarely under the ‘misconduct’ criteria and Nooksack Election Board (NEB) “was unable to produce any minutes or records, and unable to verify it had a properly constituted board during time periods of this election.”
  2. There were improper conflicts of interest/nepotism. The person who solicited for ballot clerks was the parent of one of the candidates and “it would be wholly inappropriate under the code to illicit, encourage, or allow someone whose direct relative was in the election to solicit for Ballot Clerks or have any part in the election process.”
  3. There were irregularities with the ballot. A candidate’s name was misspelled, and the paper used for printing ballots lacked unique security features. The ballots were developed in a way that is prohibited by law and these are errors that call into question the entire process and its result.
  4. The Election Board failed to maintain ballot records as required by law. In at least one case, multiple ballots were issued and in others, there was a failure to issue replacement ballots and to protect the identity of the voters of voided or replacement ballots.

The ruling concludes that “All of the evidence in the record of the Nooksack Election Board Decision leads the Court to conclude that for a variety of separate reasons … the 2020 Tribal Council Election was not carried out by NEB fairly or securely as mandated by law.”

Judge Majumdar directs a general election with the same candidates to be scheduled following the laws of the Nooksack Tribe. The decision is final and not subject to appeal.

Read the document here.