A general election scheduled Tuesday on the Ute reservation has been called off by the Ute Tribal Court amid allegations of election rigging.
The Tribal Business Committee has upheld the ruling.Three of six business committee seats are on the ballot.
The court called a halt to the election after several candidates said voters were required to sign ballots in the primary election, negating the secret ballot process, said Gary Montana.
Montana, a former tribal attorney, represents a number of challengers against the Tribal Election Board, which had been appointed by the Tribal Business Committee.
Following a daylong hearing Monday in Fort Duchesne, Judge Leon Prank ordered a halt to the election. The judge also found the Tribal Election Board in contempt and fined its three members for not appearing in court.
The judge then ordered the election board dissolved and the March 14 primary election void.
A new election committee is to be established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs with a primary election to be held no later than April 26.
Last week, the business committee rescinded its own ordinance that had placed elections under the jurisdiction of the tribal court.
Luke Duncan, the chairman of the business committee, said the action upset the delicate separation of powers on the reservation.
"Giving the authority over the election to the court system provides justice for all. But giving it back to the tribal council makes it a political matter," Duncan said.
The attorney for the challengers said the business committee's action was aimed at keeping incumbents and a four-member majority bloc, headed by Stewart Pike, in power.
Pike is not up for re-election.
"It was a blatant attempt to cut out the tribal court jurisdiction," Montana said. "The business committee thinks it is above the law."
Montana alleged the election board took up the practice of identifying ballots in order to control the election and political payoffs.
Pike said he was not behind the upheaval and, "I'm sick and tired of Montana making these accusations."