TULSA, Okla. — A federal judge on Monday found the Cherokee Nation in contempt of court for missing a deadline to notify roughly 1,200 descendants of black slaves once owned by the Oklahoma tribe’s members that they could vote in a special election for their chief.
U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy already allowed attorneys for the tribe and the black descendants, known as freedmen, to hatch a deal in Washington D.C. last week to extend balloting for Saturday’s special election until Oct. 8 so that those qualified to vote can be notified and participate.
But on Monday, Jon Velie, an attorney for the freedmen, explained to the judge that the tribe not only missed Thursday’s deadline to notify the 1,200 registered freedmen voters, it also missed a Saturday deadline to get absentee ballots to roughly 350 freedmen voters who had requested them. The election began Saturday and ends Oct. 8.
Susan Plumb, the chairwoman of the Cherokee Nation Election Commission, said a mechanical problem during printing delayed the mailing and that all of the letters were sent by Thursday.