Tex Hall loses appeal for new election

David Melmer
1/5/07

NEW TOWN, N.D. - Tex Hall, former chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, has lost his appeal for a new election.

Hall's attempt to serve as MHA Nation chairman for a third consecutive term failed Nov. 7, when Marcus Wells Jr. defeated him by 233 votes. Hall was the first person ever to be elected to two consecutive terms as nation chairman.

Hall and 10 supporters submitted complaints to the tribal elections board on Nov. 16, alleging illegal actions by Wells.

The elections board stated at a hearing that it would not accept evidence on, nor could it determine, criminal conduct.

The elections board would not order a new election stating that no evidence was given to prove any of the accusations, although affidavits from many people claimed that campaigning and voter coercion had taken place.

Hall complained that his due process was violated because the elections board could not subpoena witnesses and could not deal with criminal conduct. He asked for a fair hearing with subpoenaed witnesses to testify before the board.

Fort Berthold District Judge Terry Pechota affirmed that Hall's due process was violated and that the elections board erred when it refused to hear evidence that may be of a criminal nature. The board's decision was based on the fact, as stated by the board, that the evidence may complicate prosecution by the appropriate office.

Pechota stated that the election ordinance does not give the board subpoena power or the power to hear criminal cases but the tribal court, if requested, may have power to issue subpoenas for witnesses to appear before the elections board. He also stated that nothing in the elections ordinance prevents the board from hearing criminal evidence.

''Indeed the opposite is true. The Ordinance mandates that the board admit evidence, testimonial and documentary, presented by the complainants and by other interested persons having relevant evidence to present,'' Pechota wrote.

He added that the elections board was correct in the assumption it had no jurisdiction over criminal offenses, but that didn't mean the board could not hear relevant evidence, whether it be civil or criminal in nature.

Witnesses at the elections board hearing alleged that Wells appeared at a polling place and handed a bag to a tribal member. Vote-buying, bribery and intimidation were also alleged, and that campaigning took place within 100 feet of a polling place.

Some people alleged that challenge votes were not sealed; one allegation accused Wells of entering a polling place. Other allegations stated that there was general disorganization at the polling place, election judges were late, a ballot box was left unattended and the election process was not well-administered.

''A review of the affidavits shows that although some criminal conduct was alleged, there was none showing that any such conduct would change the vote count in the present case,'' Pechota wrote.

The elections board found, as did Pechota, that even though there may have been some voting improprieties -some that may even have been criminal in nature - those irregularities would not change the outcome of the election.

In a prepared statement, Wells said Hall's allegations of wrongdoing ''have hung like a black cloud over this tribe and our people.''

''It is time to move forward in a positive way. It's a new year and time to let go of the past. We need to work toward building a better future for our tribe,'' Wells stated.

Hall did not respond to phone calls.

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