Lumbee elections remain on pause

Bob Shiles Staff writer

September 24, 2013

PEMBROKE — A last-ditch effort to come up with money to hold the Lumbee Tribal Council election on Nov. 12 failed Monday, and the elections are now “suspended until further notice,” according to the chairwoman of the tribe’s elections board.

Carvicous Barfield said that a meeting Monday morning between herself and Tribal Administrator Tony Hunt failed to reach any solution to pay for the annual tribal election that is mandated by the Lumbee Constitution. Chairman Paul Brooks and tribal administrators contend that there are no unrestricted funds available for the election, an activity that cannot be funded with federal funds allocated to the tribe under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act.

According to Barfield, Hunt offered $3,100, all the money he said he could find, to cover the election that she said would cost about $25,000. The board only has available the $4,500 in filing fees collected from the 18 candidates to cover election expenses, Barfield said.

Barfield said that her additional budget needs of $21,313 are “bare bones,” and does not include such expenses as electric and phones for the new elections office located on Union Chapel Road. She also said if there becomes a need for major repairs to existing voting machines and other election equipment, there is no money available to pay the bill.

“Things get more expensive every year,” Barfield said. “We (board) are not trying to be unreasonable, but this board is responsible for running a credible election for tribal members. We are going to protect the rights of tribal members and the candidates.”

In a statement, Hunt said that he believes the election could be held for less money than the total $25,813 budgeted by the Board of Elections.

A review of budget ordinances dating back to 2008 show the Election Board funded previous elections using money from the tribe’s nonprofit company (Lumbee Nations Tribal Program), tax credits from tribal housing, and revenue generated from fees on enrollment identification cards, according to Hunt’s statement.

Money from these sources are not currently available, tribal officials have said.

In his statement, Hunt said that he “believes the budget could have been reduced significantly … .” According to Hunt, the election should cost approximately $8,000 and the proposed budget is “excessive.”

Hunt’s estimate on elections cost is based on the fact that the upcoming election includes only six districts — with one additional district, District 8, being uncontested — compared with the 2012 election, when there was a chairman’s election that resulted in polling sites having to be open in all of the tribe’s 14 electoral districts. The larger election in 2012 cost about $31,000.

In her budget, Barfield has budgeted $6,500 in travel and salary payments for herself and four other board members, amounts Hunt questions. The chairman would receive $1,700. Each board member would be paid $1,200.

Hunt also questions the amount of money the board of elections has budgeted for newspaper, radio and television advertising, clerical costs, and the number of judges needed to man polling sites.

Barfield said that Hunt’s suggestion to save money by reducing the number of judges who would man the six polling sites would not be feasible if a “credible” election is to be held. Three judges are needed at most polling sites, she said, with five judges working the polls where the largest numbers of voters cast their ballots.

According to Barfield, absentee ballots will continue to be processed in case money is found to proceed with the election as planned. She said any absentee ballots returned by the October deadline will be votes that are counted whenever the election is held.

Barfield said that if the election is not held on Nov. 12, all of the incumbent council members in the seven districts up for election will maintain their seats until another election is held.

“This is ridiculous. There’s no reason for this. The election is mandated in the constitution to be held every year. There’s no surprise that the money is needed,” she said. “This election is not something for the elections board, the council or the administration. It’s for the people and should have been planned for.”