STONEY NAKODA – Chiniki band members will be headed to the polls Tuesday (Dec. 8) to vote for chief and council.
Members will be able to cast their ballots at the Bearspaw Youth Centre, located in the Morley townsite, or at the Eden Valley School Annex. Masks must be worn during voting and hand sanitizer will be available. Those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms including cough, runny nose, headache and aches pains are being asked to stay home to help prevent the spread.
Incumbent Chief Aaron A. Young is once again running in the election with nation member Bruce Labelle also running for chief.
Running for four available council seats are Lional Wildman, Boyd S. Wesley, Colin G. Simeon, Verna N. Powderface, Frank Chiniquay, Charles R. Powderface, Eric A. Salter, Jordie I. Mark, Clinton V. Dixon, Homer Holloway, Brett M. Benjamin, Angela N. Kaquitts, Charles R. Mark and Travis L. Rider.
Chiniki First Nation is part the Stoney Nakoda Nation along with Bearspaw and Wesley First Nations. All three Nations have a chief and council representatives for the approximately 5,000 populated nation. There are 967 eligible voters in the Chiniki Nation.
This will be a unique election as it is taking place during a global pandemic, said Chiniki First Nation Chief Executive Officer Brian Evans.
“We have done everything possible to keep our numbers down, our active, our positive cases down and to make sure we are super conscious and super conscientious about doing things that will make sure that people feel safe and are safe,” Evans said.
Protecting the community's health and well-being is the top priority during the election, Evans said, and there were many conversations with chiefs and council, Stoney Health, Tribal administrators and Nakoda Emergency Management to prepare for voting day.
During the election they will be strictly following public health measures, Evans said, and a virtual voting process was created to ensure all eligible members have the option to cast a ballot even if they are unable to come to an actual voting poll. He added an advanced poll was held on Tuesday (Nov. 30).
“We have some active cases, some positives, some others who are isolating and we have others who feel that their personal health is compromised if they have health issues if they’re aged, for example," Evans said. "We’re trying to accommodate their concerns while at the same time making sure confidentiality is maintained.
“We’re trying to be flexible in a fairly inflexible environment of elections.”
In this election, Chiniki is allowing for an electronic balloting process to help limit the transmission of COVID-19.
“There are two machines, one for the votes for chief, the other for the voters for council,” Evans said.
If a ballot has been invalidated in any way it will be flagged by the balloting machine and one of the deputies will identify why a ballot is invalid. The voter will then get the option to fill out a new ballot if they choose.
Evans added they have a deputy in Big Horn and Eden Valley that will be helping to tabulate votes.
Once the physical ballot is processed it will be stored in a lockbox for safety in case there is any appeal to the vote.
The chief electoral officer will then keep the ballots under lock and key during the 10-day appeal process. If the vote is contested in that time the Band Council Resolution that approved the custom election regulations indicates the appeal will be heard by Tribal Council. They will review the appeal and make a final decision.
The Chiniki election results are expected to be released on Wednesday (Dec. 9).