Your Vote Counts: Special election on proposed constitutional amendments, May 3

April 1, 2016


Mikhail Sundust

Gila River Indian News


The Gila River Indian Community is holding a special election on proposed constitutional amendments on May 3, during the tribal elections for council representatives. Absentee ballots will be available for registered GRIC voters who are unable to vote at a polling site on Election Day.


Voter participation is a major key to the completion of the special election ballot initiative.


Your participation in the ballot initiative is vital because 30 percent of registered GRIC voters must participate, with a yes or no vote, for the referendum to be deemed valid.


There are currently over 6,000 registered voters in the Gila River Indian Community, which means more than 1,800 voters must go to the polls or submit an absentee ballot.


This initiative is a direct result of the TCRP, the Tribal Constitution Reform Project, which, from April 2006 to January 2009, gathered input from GRIC members, documented their opinions and concerns, and provided a means for them to voice their recommendations on amendments to the GRIC Constitution.


The GRIC Constitution was adopted in 1960, and amended for the first time in 1977 to reduce the eligible voting age from 21 to 18.


Many voters will remember that in 2013 the Community held the first vote for constitutional reform with the Secretarial Election in which Community members voted in favor of the amendment to remove the U.S. Secretary of Interior from the constitutional amendment process for all future revisions.


What Are We Voting On?


There are proposed revisions to seven articles of the constitution, all of which address basic amendments, as recommended by Community members. The amendments are divided up into five ballot questions, as follows:


Question 1: ARTICLE VI – Qualification of Officers

A YES vote will provide for additional qualifications of officers by increasing from 60 days to one year, the time requirement that a person running for Council has to be living within their district; requiring officers to be registered to vote; requiring officers to have a high school diploma or GED; and increases the prohibition for running for office, for convictions of crimes of moral turpitude from 1 year to 5 years.


Question 2: ARTICLE VII – Appointed Officials and Committee Members

A YES vote will increase the term of the Treasurer from 3 years to 4 years and will increase the term of the (Council) Secretary from 1 year to 4 years and will add specific duties to the Treasurer.


Question 3: ARTICLE IX – Vacancies

A YES vote provides for a line of succession in the absence of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, the Council shall select an interim Governor from within the Council, until a successor is elected.


Question 4: ARTICLE VIII – Tenure of Office and ARTICLE X – Elections

A YES vote will increase the term of Council persons, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Chief Judge and Associate Judges from 3 years to 4 years. Elections of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Chief Judge and Associate Judges will be held every 4 years.


Question 5: ARTICLE III – Membership (Section 6) and ARTICLE XV – Power of the Gila River Indian Community Council

A YES vote will remove the Secretary of the Interior from the Ordinance and Resolution approval process. Currently the Secretary of the Interior has authority to review membership ordinances enacted under Article III. Membership, as well as certain laws enacted under Article XV. Powers of the Gila River Indian Community Council.


A NO vote on any of these ballot measures will maintain the current Constitution language.


Where Can I Learn More?


More detailed information regarding the proposed changes can be found in a booklet produced by the Communications & Public Affairs Office, which will be mailed to all registered voters and made available at all Community Service Centers. These informational packets include sample ballots for the special election initiative and all of the precise verbiage for both the current version of the articles and the proposed amendments. The official ballots will only have the proposed amendments, and will not include the current versions of the articles.


The Community Council and Tribal Elections Office strongly encourage you to learn more about the proposed amendments on your own.


It is extremely important that all registered Community members have their voices heard during this election. Again, 30 percent of all registered voters must participate to deem this vote valid. Progress in the Community tribal government requires participation by all registered voters.