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EBCI September 7th Election Conclusions

Voter participation in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ September 7th election registered at 53.9%, as per data recently released by the Board of Elections. This marked a slight decrease from the 57.1% turnout recorded during the previous chief election in 2019.

The election included contests for the positions of principal chief, vice chief, all 12 Tribal Council seats, three School Board seats, and referendums on the legalization of cannabis and permits for the sale of mixed beverages. Remarkably, both referendum questions received resounding approval from voters, surpassing the required 30% turnout threshold with ease. The turnout figures for these questions were 52.4% for cannabis legalization and 52.1% for mixed beverage permits.

Notably, both referenda attracted more voters than the principal chief race, which saw a turnout of 51.6%. This was a modest decline from the 56.5% turnout recorded in the 2019 chief race between Richard Sneed and Teresa McCoy. Across most communities, the turnout exceeded the 50% mark, with only a marginal difference of a single percentage point in some instances.

A significant change in this year’s election was the introduction of expanded absentee voting. In previous years, tribal members were required to meet specific criteria outlined in tribal law to qualify for an absentee ballot. However, the Tribal Council amended the ordinance last year to permit any individual who was “unable to return to the Cherokee polling place to cast their votes” to request an absentee ballot.

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