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Star Lake Casino may go to vote of tribal members: New White Earth ordinance provides for referendum elections

The White Earth Tribal Council has taken the first step towards allowing a vote of the people to decide the fate of the proposed Star Lake Casino near Dent—or any other question they want to put to a vote.

The council on Monday voted 3-0 to approve the White Earth Referendum Ordinance, which sets forth the procedures for putting an issue to a referendum vote. The new ordinance will be posted for 15 days and now begins a 30-day public review period.

Under the ordinance, referendum elections can be initiated by the Tribal Council, or tribal members may ask that a new ordinance be submitted to a referendum vote.

Tribal members can also initiate their own referendum questions. A petition is required, signed by at least 20 percent of resident voters on the reservation.

Supporters have 90 days to gather and submit the petition, and tribal government then has 30 days to verify names and determine the petition is legitimate.

The Tribal Council then must set the date for a referendum election no sooner than 20 days and no later than 90 days. A simple majority vote is enough for a referendum question to pass.

A five-member election board, with one member appointed by each of the five tribal council members, will oversee the referendum vote.

Polling places will be the same as in regular tribal elections, and absentee voting will be allowed. Tribal members will have seven days to contest the results of a referendum election. The election board will judge the case and issue its findings within seven days. There is no appeal.

The new ordinance, which was signed by Tribal Chairman Terry Tibbetts and Tribal Secretary-Treasurer Tara Mason, is the first tribal ordinance that could itself be subject to a referendum vote of the people, if any opposition arises.