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Mohawks elect new chief, subchief; turnout good


HOGANSBURG — Change is coming to the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council, in the form of chief-elect Randy Hart and subchief-elect Shelley Jacobs.

During his campaign, Mr. Hart promised to reform the tribe's monthly meetings and its finances. He promised to present community members with a budget every year and make the meetings more like legislative sessions than they are now. He also wants the Mohawk language and culture to be more central to everyday life.

"Our government is in need of reform," he said in campaign literature. "If we do not start our reform now, what will the future look like for the next seven generations? Will Akwesasne be just another town in New York state?"

Results from Saturday's election were not announced until Monday.

While polls closed that day at 5 p.m., tribal rules require that ballots be counted by three different people. A tally wasn't complete until midnight Sunday, too late for a news release to be reviewed and released, tribal spokeswoman Aimee L. Benedict said.

Tribe members waiting in the parking lot of the council's building were told that Mr. Hart and Ms. Jacobs were the unofficial winners late Saturday, but no numbers were released.

"They'd already been here 15 hours. They couldn't even look at the release; they were going cross-eyed," Ms. Benedict said. "I'm thinking maybe after this, they'll look for another way to do it."

There is a different color ballot and ballot box for each open position; tribe members each receive a slip of paper for each position, check the person they want and drop the slip into the corresponding box. Then, several workers count the ballots into piles of 25, which then have to be checked two more times to ensure the count is accurate. This year, there were eight workers and four people from the tribe's board of elections.

"I don't think it's ever happened that we haven't released the results that night," Ms. Benedict said. "It works great when there are 200 or 300 voters. We don't usually have 1,000 voters. This was a great turnout."

Before this weekend, election results were always posted the same night. Voters decided between candidates for five positions this year, as opposed to the usual two.

The turnout was the highest since the land claim referendum of 2004. In that vote, 1,135 tribe members turned up to approve a measure that would give the tribe $100 million in state money to buy back more than 13,000 acres and make the New York Power Authority give the Mohawks nine megawatts of electricity. Despite the vote, neither issue has been acted upon.

From 1996 to 2004, elections were held every three years, and each of the three chief and subchief positions was up to be replaced. Before 1996, there were annual elections for one chief and one subchief, as there are now.

Ballots were longer this year than in previous years because all three of the tribe's judges were up for election, though all three were incumbents running unopposed. Before this year's election, the tribe's judges have always been appointed.

Steven B. Cook and Lois Terrance were elected tribal traffic court judges. Peter J. Herne was elected chief judge.

Mr. Hart defeated Chief James W. Ransom, who was running for his third term, and subchief Ronald W. LaFrance Jr. Ms. Jacobs defeated Jennifer Standing Arrow, Wade James McDonald, Margaret Rourke Bay and Agnes Terrance.

The newly elected officials will be sworn in July 1.

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