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Lumbee Government Commission Asks Change In Voter Turnout Requirement

PEMBROKE, NC -- A request to ease a voter turnout requirement for election of a new Lumbee Indian tribal government could be granted if one of the factions battling for control of the tribe will drop its appeal, a judge said.

Last year, Judge Howard E. Manning Jr. ordered an election to settle a dispute over who should govern the tribe of 40,000 Indians.

Last month, a commission created by Manning to oversee the creation of a new tribal government asked Manning to remove a 30 percent turnout requirement for tribal elections.

Commission members learned Saturday (June3) that Manning cannot change the requirement as long as the Lumbee Tribe of Cheraw Indians appeals his earlier decision.

The Lumbee Regional Development Association and the Lumbee Tribe of Cheraw Indians, both have claimed governmental authority for the Lumbees.

The Cheraw faction sued in 1994 in an attempt to make the LRDA give up control over millions of dollars in state and federal aid.

In January 1999, Manning ruled against the Cheraw faction, but he also ruled that the LRDA has only limited power.

The Lumbee Tribe of Cheraw Indians is appealing the decision.

In a letter to Jim Lowry, chairman of the Lumbee Self-Determination Commission, Manning wrote that he may not have the authority to delete the 30 percent requirement while the Cheraw faction's appeal is pending in the state Court of Appeals.

Jerry McNeill, chairman of the Lumbee Tribe of Cheraw Indians, said his group wants to make sure the people have a voice in deciding what form of government they want.

McNeill said he would discuss the proposal with the full tribal council of the Cheraw faction.

"As long as the people get their chance at the polls, I don't think there will be a problem with dropping he appeal," McNeill said.

If the election is held as scheduled on Nov. 7, Manning plans to certify the new elected body as the sole government of the Lumbees by Dec. 1.

State Rep. Ron Sutton, D-Robeson County, who attended Saturday's commission meeting, said he plans to introduce a bill in the General Assembly that would recognize the newly elected body as the official government of the Lumbees.

(From The Associated Press)