VALENTINE, Nebraska – It seemed like a long-time a-coming, but three days after the vote count, the Sicangu Oyate constituents of the Cherry-Todd Electric Cooperative finally obtained the official tally Sept. 17, of election results for the board of directors.
“We already knew who won of course, but many people would like to know the actual vote count,” said Sicangu tribal enrollee Rosebud Cordier, a leader of the grassroots citizen action group Oyate For Fairness & Equal Representation (OFFER).
The 70th Annual Meeting and Election of the power company that serves the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation marked the first time in history that tribal members gained the majority of the seats on the board of directors.
“Although the winners were announced, the vote count was not announced,” Cordier told constituents in a social media post. “I called the Cherry-Todd Electric office to ask what the vote count was …. So, the office manager tells me that she can’t release that information on advice of the CTE attorney, Dave Larson,” Cordier said.
Cordier then spoke to Cherry-Todd Electric Cooperative Executive Director Tim Grablander, she reported.
“Mr. Grablander tells me the same thing. The attorney has advised not to release the vote count to anyone except the candidates who won,” she said.
“Why?” she asked, mindful that more than 80 percent of the power company’s customers are tribal members.
“It’s a different policy this year, he says,” Cordier quoted Grablander.
“These are the types of crazy things that we have been putting up with for years,” she commented. “Things have got to change. Imagine if the state or the tribe wouldn’t tell their constituents the vote count on an election. It’s public information!” she added.
OFFER, which formed a decade ago with tribal government support, has campaigned since then to change the utility’s makeup by encouraging reservation residents’ voter participation at annual board meeting.
In this election, the result was five tribal members on the eight-seat board. Cordier thanked incumbent tribal board member Noah “Sandy” Tucker for providing the vote-count information.
Tucker pulled in 178 votes to hold onto his position as one of three Todd County board directors. Incumbent board chair Shawn Bordeaux received the most votes, with 189. Wayne Frederick took the other seat, with 160.
Not seated were incumbent Dave Assman, with 131, and Tamaleon Wilcox, with 77.
With two tribal candidates running for one at-large seat, Glen Yellow Eagle, earned 163 votes to Robert Becker’s 98.
The winners join tribal board member Whitney Meek, who holds one of two Mellette County director seats.
Cherry County’s two seats were not up for election. All winners serve three-year terms.
Cherry-Todd Electric Cooperative and some 900 other electric cooperatives like it are utilities that originated through community organizing and were then established by the 1936 Rural Electrification Act to provide service where private corporations failed to invest.
The coops are the providers for the majority of the area of the United States. Their structure affords the customers the opportunity to vote for the board of directors.
(Contact Talli Nauman at email@example.com)