Local News

Special election Sunday to amend KIC Constitution

Cape Fox Dancers perform at the 2011 Ketchikan Indian Community annual meeting. This year’s annual meeting is set for Sunday, starting at 1 p.m. at the Ted Ferry Civic Center.

Elections aren’t over yet for Ketchikan Indian Community members. The tribe has scheduled a special election Sunday to coincide with its annual membership meeting.

For the election, KIC voters will consider eight amendments to the tribe’s constitution, including changes to the bylaws.

The special election is the result of nearly two years of work by the KIC Tribal Council.  Questions arose following the tribe’s 2010 annual election, and KIC eventually had to schedule a second election that year after a 1979 version of the constitution was discovered, and showed that the first election violated that document’s regulations.

After that, the tribe launched a review of its governing document. KIC General Manager Debbie Patton said the Tribal Council worked with consulting group Falmouth. They reviewed the original constitution from 1939, and the revised constitution from 1979.

Following the review and membership hearings on the issue, the Tribal Council drafted eight proposition questions which will appear individually on Sunday’s ballot.

“Rather than make it an all-or-nothing, a yes or no vote to the amendments, they thought if they broke them into separate propositions, that some of them may pass,” she said. “Some of them are probably a little more controversial to people than others, so we wanted at least some of the propositions to have a chance to pass.”

One of the questions would change membership eligibility. KIC now allows anyone with at least 1/64th Native heritage to enroll.

“Essentially, in 2012, whoever is enrolled right now will be a new base roll, and so anyone from this point who can prove lineal descendancy will be eligible to be in membership regardless of blood quantum,” she said.

Another question would prohibit dual enrollment, which means that KIC members could not belong to other federally recognized tribes. They could, however, belong to regional tribal organizations, such as Central Council of Tlingit and Haida. This rule already is part of KIC’s enrollment ordinance.

Other questions ask KIC voters whether the Tribal Council president should be barred from serving at the same time as the tribe’s CEO; whether KIC’s boundaries should be defined, with an exclusion for Saxman; whether the Tribal Council should be allowed to create new boards and committees; and whether the practice of allowing more than one vote for individual Tribal Council candidates should be discontinued.

Patton said the cumulative voting practice was not part of the original constitution, and KIC never allowed it until the 1979 constitution was discovered. That later document allowed voters to stack their votes for one candidate. There has been one election with that practice allowed.

“It was really obvious in the previous election,” she said. “If you look at the number of individuals, people got in that didn’t necessarily have the highest individual member count or support, so it certainly did have an impact on this last election.”

Proposed changes to KIC bylaws would extend Tribal Council member terms from two years to three years; establish the day for the annual election as the third Monday of each January; and allow the eight elected Tribal Council members to choose officers, including the president.

Before 2010, the office of Tribal Council president was voted on by KIC members. However, discovery of the 1979 constitution showed that the president should be picked by the Council. Patton said KIC members didn’t seem to want to return to electing a president separately.

KIC has about 5,500 members, with about half actually living in Ketchikan. Patton said about 800 of the members are registered to vote in Sunday’s election. The usual voter turnout is about 500.

Patton said she hopes that the annual meeting will attract more voters to the polls, which are open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Sunday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center.

The annual meeting, which starts at 1 p.m. Sunday, also at the Ted Ferry Civic Center, is a time for KIC members to hear reports on finances, and from the Tribal Council and Health Board.

After the business portion of the meeting, several dance groups will perform. Dinner will be served at 5 p.m., hosted by the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood Camp 14.

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