Cherokee chief candidate seeks re-count

Thursday, May 29th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) -- The Cherokee Nation's election commission will re-count absentee ballots at the request of a chief's candidate who finished second in Saturday's election.

Former Chief Joe Byrd, who by unofficial returns lost in his bid to unseat Cherokee Chief Chad Smith, asked for the re-count. It is expected to take place Friday.

Smith needed 50 percent of the vote to claim the victory without a runoff. He led Byrd with 7,281 votes, or 52 percent, in unofficial returns. Byrd had 5,448 votes, or 39 percent.

In absentee balloting, Smith received 3,653 votes, or 63 percent, to Byrd's 1,624, or 28 percent, unofficial returns showed.

Two other candidates for chief, L.S. Fields and Robin Mayes, collected 9 percent of Saturday's vote.

"I have faith the count is a good one," Smith said Wednesday after the challenge.

"The election count is conducted by a professional company from Albuquerque, N.M., an independent organization with the latest in voting machines," he said.

The same firm conducted the election in 1999 when Smith beat Byrd, then the incumbent. An independent monitoring group, the Atlanta-based Carter Center, praised the tribe's handling of that election, which came after months of tribal strife.