Please note this is a narrative to help assist Members to understand all the preparation and hard work that is used to conduct the election. Additional security and steps are utilized in addition to what is stated here. We ask members to please keep in mind; all the measures taken to ensure a fair and accurate count of the ballots are being conducted in accordance to the Sault Tribe Election Ordinance, Chapter 10 of the Tribal Code.
The Sault Tribe utilizes a vote-by-mail system, whereas all registered members are mailed their ballot 21 days prior to the election count. The role of registered voters is maintained by the Enrollment Department. All ballots are numbered for security purposes but do not correspond with actual member’s names, thereby maintaining voting anonymity.
During the mail-out, many volunteers come together to fold, stuff and label over 14,500 envelopes. Labels are only placed on the envelopes after they are all sealed to ensure anonymity. Extra ballots are prepared, they are used for test purposes (and are marked as such) of the scanning equipment utilized to count and for any corrections to registered voters that may need to be made (e.g. Member was flagged as bad address and was not sent a ballot, but in fact address was good—a ballot would be sent or in case a ballot is mutilated in mail and Member wishes to exchange for new one, etc.). All ballots are accounted for after the election: total printed, total mailed, total used for test purposes, total extra, total undeliverable, and total received in an “End Cycle Report” given to the Board of Directors.
When the ballots are prepared and labeled, they are escorted to the post-office along with two (2) boxes. One box is used as the ballot return box and the other is used as an undeliverable box. Both boxes are verified empty and are photographed and documented by Tribal Police. The ballot boxes are then locked and placed in the hands of the United States Postal Service and are considered their property until count day. Pieces qualifying as undeliverable are determined by the U.S. Postal Service. The undeliverable box remains in the Post Office until after any contests; this is to ensure that the recount or any contest can be resolved without access to additional ballots. The Post Office provides reports on the ballot box on how many items were charged return postage (daily) —this is included in the End Cycle Report.
The Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ Election Committee has a unique and very open process for conducting the count of ballots. Having been in the U.S. Postal Service’s possession since drop off, the box is picked up with members of the Election Committee and Tribal Police. A drop-slip lock is placed in the ballot box by the Election Committee and photographed by Tribal Police at the Post Office and then immediately is escorted to the public count site.
Once at the public count site, volunteers assist the Election Committee in opening the thousands of ballots returned. There are restricted areas and some details to note: there is a section reserved for volunteers assisting opening, a section reserved for Election Committee members and their designees tallying the votes, and a public section to view the entire process. Volunteers are expected to stay in the restricted area and once they leave are not permitted back. No coats, purses, bags, or personal items are allowed in the opening area and no linens are on the tables to prevent the public’s view. The only writing utensils allowed are for Election Committee to note batches, they use green markers/pens to identify items scanned and to hand-count during batch reports.
When the box is opened and volunteers begin opening, the volunteers are asked to place the ballots upright separated by colors in front of their stations along with their empty envelopes. They are also asked to look for any questionable ballots that may be problematic to scan, i.e. stained, mutilated, or extensive written on ballots, etc. Members of the Election Committee begin picking up ballots and having them readied to be counted. “Batches” of 50 are prepared and get scanned. Once the scan is completed, batches are moved to a “completed” table. Throughout the count random batches are chosen to be verified, and a hand count of that batch is done to ensure the scanner is counting correctly. A running tally is displayed for the public once batches are completely scanned. The entire design is to allow a very public flow of how the ballot is counted. Empty Envelopes are also collected and verified empty prior to being place in a large see-through bag. We stagger scanning the colored ballots (each color designates a unit) in an attempt to provide updates for each unit through-out the count.
The last batches to be scanned are the questionable ballots; they may require Election Committee Review. When an altered ballot is returned, it is discarded as it does not have all the security provision of a ballot. Those that do not have a clear choice or too many choices selected are deemed spoiled. We also run reports to look for duplicates and out of range ballots to ensure security. The questionable review and reports take additional time and may slightly alter tabulation (i.e. a ballot was counted but after review it was clearly spoiled, it would be removed from the count, etc.). Once complete, the tally is updated and unofficial results are deemed posted at the count. They are deemed official after the contest period and once presented to the Board of Directors or after seven (7) days which ever is first.
The entire count is in public view, recorded, and Tribal Police are present through-out the count. The Election Committee takes every step very seriously and makes sure every vote is counted. At the end of the count all ballots, empty envelopes, disk copies of all ballots scanned, and the hard drives used to scan the ballots are placed in a box, and sealed by Tribal Police with evidence tape. That box is then placed in the ballot box and sealed again and then relocated to the Administration building. If a recount is deemed necessary, the box is relocated to the re-count site following the contest period and a recount is conducted. Those Candidates involved with the re-count are shown the evidence tape and a hand recount is conducted batch-by-batch until completed with candidates shown each ballot as it is counted. The Election Committee stops at the end of each batch and verifies with the candidate that an accurate count is being conducted. If any discrepancies exist with either candidate, we re-read the batch until everyone is clear.
Records of all accounts, all ballots, hard drives, disk copies, batch reports, etc are kept 90 days after each election or until after all contests have been resolved.
The Election Committee would like to remind members that the General Election will take place June 28, 2012. This year we will be electing a Chairman, three (3) Board Members for Unit 1, one (1) Board Member for Unit 2, one (1) Board Member for Unit 3, and one (1) Board Member for Unit 4. Interested members are encouraged to attend the public count at the Grand Ballroom at Kewadin Casino- Sault Ste. Marie location starting shortly after 5 p.m.