ARTICLE 1. GENERALLY
Section 1.1 PURPOSE
The purpose of this law is to implement Section I of the Constitution regarding elections of the Seneca Nation of Indians, and to define the procedures under which individuals shall be elected in the Nation’s General Elections.
Pursuant to the April 27, 2017 Resolution of Tribal Council, the GENERAL ELECTION LAW, shall govern the conduct of the Seneca Nation of Indians General Election.
Section 1.2 DEFINITIONS
For purposes of this law, the term –
(a) “Board of Electors” shall mean a board appointed by the Nation’s President, Council, and Judges of the Peacemakers Court, charged with control of the Nation’s elections and voting procedures;
(b) “Board of Inspectors” shall mean the board, known as the Board of Electors prior to a Nation’s election, which then serves as the overseers of election conduct and certifiers of election results upon the election day;
(c) “Business Days” shall mean Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday;
(d) “Clerk” shall mean the Clerk of the Nation established under Section VI of the Constitution, or his/her designee in the event that the Clerk is running for a position in the general election;
(e) “Constitution” shall mean the Constitution of the Seneca Nation of Indians 1848, as amended;
(f) “Felony” shall mean any offense that is:
(1) defined by the laws of the Nation as a felony; or
(2) set forth under 18 U.S.C. Section 1153 (the “Indian Major Crimes Act”, i.e. murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, maiming, rape, sexual abuse, incest, assault with intent to commit murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault resulting in a serious bodily injury, arson, burglary, robbery and theft) and defined by the laws of the United States of America as a felony;
(g) “Full ticket of Candidates” shall mean a group of candidates that fill every position listed on an election ballot;
(h) “Immediate Family Member” shall mean husband/wife; father/mother; grandfather/ grandmother; sister/brother; son/daughter; and grandson/granddaughter;
(i) “Independent Candidates” shall mean candidates who are not part of a full ticket of candidates and shall be placed on the ballot identified as independent candidates;
(j) “Member” shall mean an individual who is an enrolled member of the Nation;
(k) “Nation” shall mean the Seneca Nation of Indians, a sovereign Nation;
(l) “Party Candidates” shall mean candidates who are part of a full ticket of candidates who have filed identifying with the same political party, and shall be placed on the ballot with party identification and a party ticket voting option;
(m) “Poll Watcher” shall mean a person assigned to observe activities at a polling place to guard against illegal voting, fraudulent counting of ballots, and other violations of election laws;
(n) “Resident” shall mean a member who has lived within the Nation for at least one year;
(o) “Roll Clerk” shall mean the Nation’s Clerk, Deputy Clerk or designee(s) who determines eligibility and requires the member to sign the roll.
(p) “Party Ticket Voting Option” shall mean an option to vote for a full ticket of party candidates by casting a single vote on the ballot.
Section 1.3 SEPARABILITY
If any provision of this law or its application to any Person or circumstances is held invalid, the remainder of the provisions of this law or the application to the provision to other Persons or circumstances shall not be affected.
Section 1.4 CODIFICATION
The provisions of this law may be codified so as to facilitate accessibility.
Section 1.5 AMENDMENT
No provision of this law may be amended unless the Nation’s Council shall have approved such amendment.
Section 1.6 EFFECTIVE DATE
The effective date of this law shall be the date of enactment (September 22, 2016).
ARTICLE 2. BOARD OF ELECTORS/INSPECTORS
Section 2.1 PURPOSE
Prior to the General Election, the Board of Electors shall oversee the Nation’s election procedures. Thereafter, it shall serve as the Board of Inspectors to oversee the conduct of the Nation’s election and certification of election results in order to ensure a fair and orderly election process.
Section 2.2 APPOINTMENTS
(a) The President, Council, and Judges of the Peacemakers Court shall appoint a Board of Electors. A list shall be submitted at the Regular or Special September Council session.
(b) The Board of Electors shall consist of six members, not candidates, three from each of the Allegany and Cattaraugus Reservation; two to be selected by the President, two by the Council, and two by the Judges of the Peacemakers Court.
(c) A Board of Elector shall meet the following requirements:
(1) Enrolled member of the Nation;
(2) 21 years or older; and
(3) A resident of the Nation, as defined under Section 1.2(k).
Section 2.3 POWERS
(a) The Board of Electors shall:
(1) Appoint workers for the general election to help with the counting of ballots and to oversee the election;
(2) Assist the Clerk in the preparation of the ballot with the voting machine company;
(3) Review and make recommendations on the revision of general election rules for Council’s consideration; and
(4) Review pre-election challenges and render public decisions.
(b) The Board of Inspectors shall:
(1) Oversee the conduct of the Nation’s general election, including but not limited to requiring any voter to show proper identification;
(2) Assist the voting machine workers;
(3) Remove any individual found in violation with this law from the polling area;
(4) Have the final say on who may and who may not be allowed in the polling areas during the election and counting of votes;
(5) Certify election results; and
(6) Review post-election challenges and render public decisions.
(c) Assistance to the Board of Electors/Inspectors
(1) The Clerk shall assist the Board of Electors and the Board of Inspectors in the performance of its duties.
(2) The President shall direct two (2) elected Chief Marshals and three (3) elected Deputy Marshals, or alternate (each territory) to work on election day to assist the Board of Inspectors.
Section 2.3 LIMITATIONS
(a) A member of the Board of Electors/Alternates/Election day workers may not be an immediate family member related to any candidate who has filed to be listed on the official ballot.
(b) Election Day workers may not use telecommunication or electronic devices in the polling area, except as set forth in Section 3.8(e)(4)[b], below.
Section 2.4 CHALLENGES
(a) Pre-election challenges must be submitted in writing to the Clerk’s Office by 12:00 NOON on the seventh business day prior to the election on a signed and notarized “Challenge Affidavit Form”, available in the Clerk’s Office.
(b) Post-election challenges must be submitted in writing to the Clerk’s Office by 12:00 NOON no later than two (2) business days after the election on a signed and notarized “Challenge Affidavit Form.”
(c) The Clerk’s Office shall immediately deliver any challenges it receives to the Chairperson of the Board of Electors/Inspectors.
(d) The Board of Electors/Inspectors must review and publicly render a decision on all Pre and Post – Election challenges along with justification for its decision within two (2) business days, by 12:00 NOON, of receiving a challenge delivered from the Clerk’s Office.
ARTICLE 3. ELECTIONS
Section 3.1 POSITIONS TO BE ELECTED
The following positions shall be selected in the Nation’s General Elections:
(e) Chief Marshal;
(g) Highway Commissioners;
(h) Assessors; and
Section 3.2 ELECTION DAY; CANVASS DAY
(a) In accordance with Section I of the Constitution, elections shall be held on the first Tuesday of November and thereafter on the first Tuesday of November every second year, beginning in November, 2016.
(b) The swearing in of candidates shall occur on Canvass Day, which shall be held one week subsequent to Election Day.
Section 3.3 VOTING
(a) In accordance with Section I of the Constitution, voting shall be conducted by single ballot, containing only the names and the offices of all candidates, cast by an individual voter, out of the presence of others, and without inspection by the Board of Inspectors.
(b) Absentee voting and write-in votes are NOT allowed.
(c) Disabled Voters
(1) Eligible voters who are blind, handicapped, or otherwise disabled may be accompanied in to the voting booth by a designated relative or friend who is:
[a] Not a candidate;
[b] An enrolled member of the Seneca Nation;
[c] Age 21 or older; and
[d] Provides proof of identification to the Roll Clerk.
(2) There shall be a designated handicapped drop-off/pick up area at the polling site and a Marshal shall assist any disabled individual entering and exiting the polling site.
(1) Upon receiving a ballot, each voter shall:
[a] Immediately proceed to the designated voting area and fill out the ballot;
[b] Place the ballot in the designated ballot box/electronic machine;
[c] Exit the polling place upon completing the voting process.
(2) Spoiled Ballots
[a] A voter who inadvertently spoils a ballot may return it to the Board of Inspectors, and a Board member shall write or stamp the word “SPOILED” upon it, deposit it in a separate spoiled ballot box, and provide the voter with another ballot.
[b] A voter who spoils a ballot three times shall not be allowed to obtain another ballot.
(3) Any person at the time of voting who decides not to vote must return the ballots to the Board of Inspectors and exit the building immediately.
(4) No person is permitted to leave the polling place with any ballots in their possession. Board of Inspectors or Marshals shall, upon discovery, seize ballots in possession of anyone leaving the polling place. Seized ballots will be marked “SEIZED” and “VOID”.
(5) Any person who attempts to deposit anything other than the ballots in the ballot box will be asked to leave the polling place immediately.
(6) Ballots rejected by automated machines shall be handled by the company representative(s) and/or the Board of Inspectors.
Section 3.4 ELIGIBILITY TO VOTE
(a) Every enrolled member of the Seneca Nation of Indians that meets the following requirements shall be competent to vote at elections:
(1) Twenty-one (21) years of age; and
(2) Not convicted of a felony, as defined under Section 1.2(f).
(b) Photo Identification
(1) Voters may be requested to show photo identification, which must include name, address, physical description, date of birth, and signature, upon entering a polling place.
(2) Photo identification must also be presented upon the request of ANY:
[a] Roll Clerk;
[b] Poll Watcher challenging the identity of a voter; or
[c] Member of the Board of Inspectors.
(c) Double Voting is prohibited. To eliminate the possibility of double voting, the Board of Inspectors shall cross check registered voters on each Territory at the top of every hour and/or as necessary in accordance with Section 3.8(e)(4)[b].
(d) Any person not eligible to vote shall not be permitted within a one thousand (1,000) foot radius of the designated driveway entrance to any building where each polling place is located, with the exception of essential employees who are required to work at the polling site buildings.
(e) In the event of a challenge to a voter’s eligibility, the contested voter shall vote by a paper ballot, then immediately sealed and signed. Such sealed ballot shall be opened by the Board of Inspectors and recorded in the event that the voter is later determined eligible to vote.
(f) The Clerk’s Office shall provide a list of final voter eligibility to the Board of Electors by close of business on the last day prior to the election. Individual voters are responsible for making sure their name is on this list.
Section 3.5 ELIGIBILITY FOR OFFICE
(a) Consistent with Section I of the Constitution, an individual shall be eligible to run for office if they:
(1) Are an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation;
(2) Are twenty-one (21) years of age or older [unless running for President, then the minimum age required is thirty (30) years or older]; and
(3) Have lived on the territory he/she seeks to represent for at least one (1) year.
(b) The candidate must also not have been convicted of a felony, as defined under Section 1.2(f).
(c) No candidate shall run in the General Election for more than one position on the ballot.
(d) If a current elective official who has not finished their current term wishes to be a candidate for a different elective position, that official will be required to relinquish the remaining term of their current office, as follows:
(1) The Official will be required to provide written notice of their intent to resign their office to Council upon filing the petition to run in the election (no later than 15 days prior to the election).
(2) Council shall confirm the resignation and inform the President that there exists a vacancy, who shall fill the vacancy by appointment in accordance with Section I of the Constitution.
(3) The term of the vacant position shall be the number of years remaining on the resigned official’s term.
(4) The only elective officials exempt from this provision shall be those who are finishing out their current term, which will expire on election day.
Section 3.6 FILING; WITHDRAWAL
(a) In accordance with Section I of the Constitution, any member seeking to be a candidate in a general election shall file a “Petition to File as Candidate” form with the Clerk of the Nation, signed and notarized containing their name, office, statement of the individual’s desire to be a candidate, and statement setting forth the candidate’s satisfaction of all eligibility requirements, on or before the 15th day preceding the biennial election.
(b) No further candidate shall be allowed to file for office after the 15th day preceding the election, except where a death has occurred, in which case substitution will be permitted on party tickets so filed.
(c) Any candidate seeking to remove their name from the ballot must submit to the Clerk of the Nation a request for removal and sworn affidavit, provided that no candidate shall be allowed to remove his/her name from the official ballot after the Thursday immediately preceding the date of the election.
Section 3.7 PREPARATION OF BALLOT
(a) In accordance with Section I of the Constitution, a single ballot shall contain the names of all party candidates and independent candidates. The Clerk shall be responsible for preparing the ballot and printing it at the expense of the Nation.
(b) The placement of Candidates/Party names shall be placed on the ballot consistent with tradition and practice (e.g. the incumbent Party will be listed first on the ballot, followed by additional parties in the order filed with the Clerk.) The placement of Independent Candidate names on the ballot shall appear in the order of the date/time as filed by that individual with the Clerk.
(c) Upon finalizing the ballot, the Clerk shall provide the ballot to the Board of Electors no later than 24 hours prior to the election.
Section 3.8 POLLING AREA
(a) Polling sites shall be located at the Seneca Allegany Administration Building (SAAB) on the Allegany Territory and at the William Seneca Administration Building on the Cattaraugus Territory.
(b) In accordance with Section I of the Constitution, doors to the polling sites shall be open for voting on Election Day at 9:00am and closed and secured promptly at 7:00pm. Those waiting in line at 7:00pm will be allowed to vote. However, any delays caused by mechanical failure or otherwise delaying the start of voting, as determined by the Board of Inspectors, shall result in the adjustment of time to ensure that there has been ample time allotted for voting.
(c) Only the candidates running for Executive Office (President, Treasurer and Clerk) will be allowed in the building to inspect the voting machines prior to the commencement of voting along with the Board of Inspectors and relevant voting machine staff.
(d) Poll Watchers
(1) Each political party or independent Presidential candidate will be allowed one (1) Poll Watcher per Territory at the Party’s/Independent Presidential candidate’s expense who shall be allowed to observe election proceedings only.
(2) Poll Watchers shall not:
[a] participate in any way with the ordinance, voting, or counting procedures;
[b] engage in any behavior that could be construed as harassment, intimidation, or disruption to the general voting public; or
[c] interact with any voters.
(3) In order to designate a Poll Watcher, names must be submitted to the Clerk’s Office by 4:30 p.m., close of business, ten (10) business days prior to Election Day.
(4) Each Poll Watcher is required to remain in the designated location within the polling area during the entire polling time.
(1) Any and all political activity (i.e. solicitation of votes, distribution of material, demonstrations and signage) is strictly prohibited within one thousand (1,000) feet of the designated driveway entrance to any building where each polling place is located.
(2) No loitering, profanity or consumption or possession of mind-altering substances is permitted in the building or parking lot areas where the polling place is located.
(3) Any person who is visibly intoxicated will NOT be allowed to enter the polling area, as determined by the Chair or Co-Chair of the Board of Inspectors.
(4) Telecommunication and other electronic devices.
[a] Telecommunication, cell phones, cameras, and all other electronic devices, portable or otherwise, shall be prohibited in the polling area.
[b] Use of a telephone or fax machine at the polling location shall be used only for confirmation of voters and emergencies. Only a Board of Inspector or designated employee shall be authorized to make calls. To eliminate the possibility of double voting, the Board of Inspectors shall cross check registered voters on each Territory at the top of every hour and/or as necessary.
(5) Any person not eligible to vote shall not be permitted within a one thousand (1,000) foot radius of the designated driveway entrance to any building where each polling place is located, with the exception of essential employees who are required to work at the polling site buildings.
Section 3.9 TALLYING OF BALLOTS
(a) The Board of Electors shall identify a private room within the polling site building (SAAB & Wm Seneca) for votes to be tallied.
(b) Only the Board of Inspectors, Clerk (or designee), Chief Marshal (or designee), Executive Office candidates and relevant voting machine staff shall be present during the tallying of ballots.
(c) The Board of Inspectors shall then count the ballots and make a signed, written statement of the number of votes.
(d) The Board of Inspectors shall publicly announce the winners of all elective positions and release a signed statement showing the number of votes that were cast at the time of the election and amount of votes for each candidate.
Section 3.10 SEQUESTERING OF BALLOTS
Until the Board of Inspectors has certified the results of the election and the successful candidates have been sworn into office, the ballots from the voting machines and any reports of proceedings of the election shall be deposited at the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office in Little Valley, NY by the Chair and Co-Chair or their designee of the Board of Inspectors and SNI Marshals immediately following the tallying of ballots. Election results and reports shall be kept through Canvass Day.
Section 3.11 TIES
In the event of a tie vote between any candidates, the Board of Inspectors may call for a recount of the ballots for the position in question. After the confirmation of a tie, a separate run-off election to break the tie must be held by machine vote two (2) days after election day.
Enacted by Council Resolution, September 22, 2016
Amended by Council Resolution, April 27, 2017
Amended by Council Resolution, September 26, 2018
Amended by Council Resolution, September 24, 2020
The Challenge Affidavit Form and the Candidate Form are both available in the Clerk’s Office.