Carter Center Issues Findings on Oct. 3 Cheyenne Arapaho Elections

Contact: Deanna Congileo,

ATLANTA — Following invitations from the Cheyenne and Arapaho legislative branch, the Tribal Council, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Election Commission, and with the welcome of Cheyenne and Arapaho citizens, The Carter Center deployed a limited election observation mission of two international election experts to assess the Oct. 3 primary elections in the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.

During these elections, registered voters of the two tribes cast ballots for the office of the governor, and for members of the tribal legislature and the Election Commission that were up for election. The Carter Center team met with the election commission, candidates, and other election stakeholders.

On election day, the team visited nine of the 10 polling stations, observed the retrieval and transportation of the absentee ballots from the post office to the Concho Community Center, and observed the central counting process at the end of the day. The Carter Center will deploy a team of observers to the Nov. 7 general election and, following the election, will issue a full report including key findings and recommendations to improve future elections in the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.

The Carter Center’s election observation missions are conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, and the electoral process is assessed against the constitution, election laws, and other pertinent legislation of the host nation.

Despite some concerns voiced to the Carter Center team in advance of the election, polling processes on election day proceeded smoothly, in a calm environment. Polling staff, including representatives of the technology vendor TrueBallot, were courteous and helpful to the voters where the Center observed. Voters appeared to understand the voting process and could vote without hindrance. Nevertheless, additional instruction, both with the ballot and in the voting booths, could be helpful. In general, the polling place setup facilitated voting, including by persons with disabilities, and ensured the secrecy of the vote. The ability of voters to cast their ballot at any polling site was a positive step to increase participation. Voter turnout was relatively low for the primary elections, and the Center hopes that participation will increase for the Nov. 7 election.

The counting of the ballots was conducted at a central location on election night in the presence of the members of the Election Commission, representatives of the candidates, and election observers. This is an important transparency measure. Overall, while the counting process appeared to follow some procedure, The Carter Center would encourage the Election Commission of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, as well as TrueBallot, to take steps to further increase the transparency of the counting process and ensure that everyone present understands the process as it unfolds.

In this light, we respectfully offer the following recommendations for small but important improvements that could be made in advance of the Nov. 7 elections:

  • Codify and share polling and counting procedures: Although voting and counting processes went smoothly on election day, The Carter Center observers noted inconsistent practices among staff at polling stations, and at times, a lack of clarity on the correct procedures. In advance of Nov. 7, we suggest that the Election Commission provide written instruction on the correct procedures for each stage of the process to everyone involved in administering the election. These procedures should include clear guidance on the physical security of voting materials at all times, including the need for the ballot boxes to be in the clear view of the Election Commission staff, and protocols for the handling of lock/keys for ballot boxes. This should be supplemented with a short in-person training in each constituency, and written checklists for polling staff to ensure that appropriate steps are followed.
  • Reconcile ballots at each step of the process: To better ensure transparency of the counting process, The Carter Center recommends that ballot reconciliation procedures be put in place. These should include: (1) reconciliation of the ballots with the number of voter signature slips at the polling station level determined by a hand count of the slips by the Election Commission representative; (2) reconciliation of vote counts at the counting center; and (3) reconciliation of the absentee ballots at the counting center prior to the ballots’ being counted by the machines. The reconciliation of the ballots should be supported by simple and clear reconciliation protocols that can be signed by the Election Commission representatives and the election vendor.
  • Run a public logic and accuracy test of the ballot scanning equipment in advance of counting: In advance of Nov. 7, The Carter Center recommends that the Election Commission require TrueBallot to conduct a public logic and accuracy (L&A) test that would include members of the Election Commission and candidate representatives. Using simple sample ballots, an L&A test would make sure that machines are counting ballots accurately (including the number of votes for each candidate, and the number of blank ballots or over-votes). The machine count can then be compared to a hand count of the sample ballots conducted at the same time by the Election Commission and made part of the record of the election. 
  • Increase transparency throughout the counting process: While important steps were taken to ensure the transparency of the counting process, The Carter Center suggests that additional measures could be taken to increase confidence in the counting process. These include (1) ensuring that all information about the counting process is shared publicly with all Election Commission members and explained clearly to observers at the counting site prior to the beginning of ballot counting; (2) having the technology vendor document any issues with machine calibration or computer restarts and share them immediately with the Election Commission; and (3) providing and publicizing the number of voters per polling place as well as the number of absentee ballots sent, received and counted.
  • Address count discrepancies from Oct. 3 count and recount: While the Carter Center did not observe the recount processes that took place after Oct. 3, it appears that discrepancies between the election night count and the recounts emerged. Given this, we encourage the Election Commission and its legal team to carefully review and determine the cause of these discrepancies, and institute appropriate procedures to prevent any recurrence during the Nov. 7 elections. 
  • Take additional steps to ensure that every eligible absentee ballot is counted: The Carter Center observed the collection of absentee ballots by the Election Commission from the post office at 3 p.m. on Oct. 3. To ensure that all absentee ballots cast for the Nov. 7 election are counted, we suggest that the Election Commission consider collecting absentee ballots from the post office at 4:50 p.m. to ensure that all ballots received on election day are counted.


"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.