SIX NATIONS – Community member and Chief Electoral Polling Officer Dorothy Russell-Patterson approached council several weeks ago to bring forward possible changes to the election code as suggested to her by other community members.
Russell-Patterson has since faced criticism from several councillors on the Elected Council stating that she may in a conflict of interest with her position. Since her first council meeting appearance Russell-Patterson has held three community meetings and she has given the Two Row Times an update regarding her efforts.
Regarding the potential concerns considering her role as Chief Electoral Polling Officer, Russell-Patterson said: “I respect the questions and concerns regarding my role as Chief Electoral Polling Officer. Some community members feel I am obligated to maintain this role until the next election. As such, I agreed to step away from further discussion about changes to Section VI — Districts of the current Six Nations Election Code.”
It has also been decided that there will not be a community vote on August 27 regarding changes to the code.
Here is some of what Russell-Patterson had to say in her update — the entire update will soon be posted on the Two Row Times website.
“My initial concerns to have the current Six Nations Election Code reviewed came from many voters in the 2013 election, where I served as the Chief Electoral Polling Officer (CEPO). Suggestions from the community came up again during the By-Election held in August 2015. The Six Nations Elected Council was advised of the need to review and consider changes to the Code which several councillors agreed with. However, when I realized that this may not occur before the upcoming election in November, I decided that perhaps one change to the Code would be worth considering … Section VI pertaining to Districts. Many community members had expressed the need to eliminate Districts in past. It was this section of the Code that I chose to hold community meetings about. It was this section that I chose to receive community input about voting to keep or eliminate districts. I chose to do this as a community member, not as the CEPO,” reads Russell-Patterson’s report.
Some of the 28 comments and concerns brought forward by the community were:
- the community needs more information
- removing districts will leave the community with a family full of councillors because the families will all vote for each other
- the voting date should be pushed back
- there should be an election code committee
There were 20 unanswered questions on Russell-Patterson’s update, some of there were; does there need to be a percentage of people that sign a petition for a change to happen; what are the reasons for removing the districts; can there be more voting days; and why are there not shorter terms for councillors?
Russell-Patterson said that former members of the Election Code Code Committee 2008 to 2010 agreed to reconvene and review the code they devised. Four community members offered to participate on their committee and that meetings will begin in the near future.
“I want to say ‘Thank You’ to the young lady who knocked on my door and offered to take the petition and post on social media; to the previous Election Code Committee members who alerted me to the hard work they already accomplished; to those who sent emails offering suggestions; to Chief Ava Hill and the Councillors who offered their support and encouragement in looking at the Code; to those who telephoned offering their support for my efforts; to the community members who came out and voiced their concerns, questions and opinions; to the Administration Dept. Six Nations Elected Council for the use of equipment and personnel to record the proceedings of the meetings,” reads Russell-Patterson’s report.
Since Russell-Patterson’s initial appearance at Elected Council, it has been reported that Russell-Patterson was continuing to hold community meetings and told to start a petition regarding the proposed changes under direct direction by Elected Chief Ava Hill. Hill denied the accusations and said that she was simply suggesting Russell-Patterson to follow-up on certain protocols that are in place regarding her intention.
None of the audio files from Elected Council’s general meetings recorded by the Two Row Times have documented Hill telling Russell-Patterson what to do, other than asking her to follow protocol.