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Re-election candidates keep seats in Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council; 2 new members join

Update, Monday Feb 13, 10am

Four candidates running for reelection to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council will keep their seats.

Tribe members voted Sunday to re-elect incumbents Nelson Andrews Jr., Edwina Winnie Johnson-Graham, Rita Pocknett-Gonsalves, and Domingo Tiexeira.

Two new members join the Tribal Council: Nitana Hicks Greendeer and Roxanne Mills-Brown.

The Council makes and enforces laws for the Tribe related to housing, healthcare, and economic development.

433 people voted in the election.

According to a message to CAI from the Tribe, the vote tallies were as follows:

Nitana Hicks Greendeer 258
Cecelia Martinez 124
Domingo Tiexeira III 285
Roxanne Mills-Brown 228
Suzette Peters Mattis 171
Rita Pocknett Gonsalves 270
Steven Bingham 93
Dr. Edward Avant 168
Edwina Winnie Johnson-Graham 185
Nelson Andrews Jr. 298
Winona Pocknett 192
Write-in 15


Friday, Feb 10, 6am

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s general election will be held on Sunday, February 12th. Six Tribal Council seats are open and it’s a crowded race. CAI's Eve Zuckoff and Patrick Flanary talked about what you need to know.

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Patrick Flanary: Eve, what is at stake in this election?

Eve Zuckoff: Well this is a pretty big election. The Tribal Council has all of the executive and legislative powers of the Tribe — the power to make and enforce laws. It’s currently working on a number of projects that range from housing to healthcare, economic development.

"So it's definitely important that tribal members go out and vote for someone who they think will make good decisions on behalf of the whole community," said Dasia Peters, a spokesperson for the Tribe.

And there are 11 candidates running for just six seats. So it’s very competitive.

In fact, I talked to the chairwoman of the election committee, who told me she was anticipating at least 400 people to come out to vote. But she ordered 1,000 ballots to be on the safe side.

Patrick Flanary: Ok so 400 people expected, but 1,000 ballots to be on the safe side.

Eve Zuckoff: Correct.

Patrick Flanary: 11 Candidates — break it down for us.

Eve Zuckoff: Yes, OK. Let's go down the line starting with 4 candidates running for reelection. That’s Nelson Andrews Jr., Edwina Winnie Johnson-Graham, Rita Pocknett-Gonsalves, and Domingo Tiexeira.

And then the 7 new candidates are Winona Pocknett, Suzette Peters Mattis, Nitana Hicks Greendeer, Cecilia Martinez, Roxanne Mills-Brown, Steven Bingham, Jr., Edward Avant.

And these candidates all have bios up on the tribe’s website where they write about their accomplishments, their personal backgrounds, and some priorities that come up again and again. Several candidates talked about investing in youth or elder services, safe and affordable housing, addiction services, and then, of course, economic development. Candidates have different visions, some toward building a Tribal casino in Taunton, others want to pursue other routes.

Patrick Flanary: So we have a lot at stake here. How can people go about voting on Sunday?

Eve Zuckoff: Well, first everyone needs to be registered to vote. All enrolled Tribal citizens who are 18 or older can register on or before Election Day. They just have to complete a voter registration form, which can be obtained at the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Community & Government Center.

And on Election Day, polls will open at 1 p.m. for Tribal elders, that's 55+, and those who are disabled. Everyone else can vote from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.. Folks will need to show federal, state or Mashpee Tribal Government issued photo ID at the community and government center. And then they’re good to cast their ballot.

Patrick Flanary: Alright, I'm fascinated by this, Eve. There's no mail-in voting, no absentee voting.

Eve Zuckoff: Nope!

Patrick Flanary: Explain this to me. How does this work?

Eve Zuckoff: Well, the Tribe’s constitution explicitly forbids it. The idea is that in-person voting protects the interests of Tribal citizens who actually live here on the Cape, and are arguably most affected by any decision-making by this body. Now, there have been some legal challenges to this by citizens of the tribe. And in the last few years, where the Cape’s housing market has exploded because so much is unaffordable, and people move away to get jobs elsewhere, there are some questions about whether restricting mail-in voting is actually a kind of poll tax. It's unfair to enrolled citizens who have to travel for a day, spending hours driving to the Cape, even getting on a plane for some of them, just to have their voice heard.

This even came up during a recent candidate forum as something to look into during the next election cycle. So I think it’s something we’ll be watching.

Patrick Flanary: That's Eve Zuckoff breaking down the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's general election, which happens on Sunday. Eve, thanks as always for joining Morning Edition.

Eve Zuckoff: Thanks, Patrick!

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.
Patrick Flanary is a dad, journalist, and host of Morning Edition.