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Baker Leads Smith in Preliminary Cherokee Election Results (Oct 10, 2011)

Voting in a special election for the leader of one of the nation’s largest Native American tribes is now complete. But there are still thousands of absentee ballots left to be counted.

The election commission for the Cherokee Nation says tribal council member Bill John Baker leads former Principal Chief Chad Smith by 22 percent in early returns.

The commission says it has already counted ballots cast in person from each precinct and walk-in voting. Smith and Baker were each twice declared the winner in a June 24 election.

The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruled the original election results were too close to call.

Voting was extended through Saturday to satisfy a federal court judge concerned that descendants of former slaves owned by members of the Cherokee Nation would not be allowed to vote.

Tribal election officials say they will be counting the absentee ballots Monday and Tuesday. They say it could be Wednesday before unofficial results are known.

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