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Jourdain retains chairmanship: Red Lake Election Board ruling overturned

RED LAKE -- Citing hearsay evidence, lack of general election board authority to call for a runoff and the need to move on and focus on tribal needs, the Red Lake Tribal Council voted 7-2 Tuesday to certify Chairman-elect Floyd "Buck" Jourdain as the winner of the July 19 election.

Following three hours of testimony and discussion, Hereditary Chief James Loud swore Jourdain in as chairman for the next four years.

Jourdain won the election with 1,724 votes to former Red Lake Nation Secretary Judy Roy's 1,653. He ran as the incumbent as he served the last two years of the late Chairman Gerald Brun's term. Brun died while he was in office.

On July 25, Archie King challenged the certification alleging that Jourdain had violated election law. On July 28, the Red Lake General Election Board accepted the allegations that Jourdain had chartered a bus to bring tribal members from Duluth to Red Lake, had provided them free food at tribal expense and put them up in the Seven Clans Casino in Thief River Falls. The board also accepted affidavits that Jourdain paid voters between $40 and $100 for their votes.

As a result, the election board ordered the Tribal Council to set a new runoff election between Jourdain and Roy.

"My race has been disputed by a tribal member," Jourdain said. He denied the allegations several times during the lengthy discussion. "I violated none of the election ordinances. ... I did not buy votes."

However, attorney Tom Peckham, of the New Mexico Nordhaus Law Firm, specialists in American Indian law, noted that there is no tribal ordinance against buying votes. Tribal members attending the Tribal Council meeting in the Red Lake Humanities Center also spoke on the issue. Several said buying votes was normal in tribal elections, as was feeding voters and providing transportation to the polls.

Peckham said he could give his interpretation of the Red Lake Constitution and election code, but it is up to the Tribal Council as elected leaders of a sovereign nation to make the final interpretation and ruling on their own laws.

"This is your law," Peckham said. "This is your constitution. You have to decide what it means. What your law means is up to you."

However, he said the election ordinance provides for any voting member to lodge a complaint, and the election board is obliged to consider and rule on the challenge. He said the ordinance gives the election board the authority to call for a runoff only in the case of a tie.