October 19th, 2011
11:12 PM ET

Black Cherokees' hard-won right to vote

By John Stremlau, Special to CNN

Editor's note: John Stremlau is vice president for peace programs at The Carter Center in Atlanta and a Cherokee election observer.

Atlanta (CNN) - The Cherokee Nation had difficulty electing its principal chief, so much so that members called in the Carter Center to observe the most recent vote and judge whether it was free and fair. We normally observe elections only in politically troubled countries abroad but believe that the contentiousness and fundamental voting rights issues at stake - and not just for the Cherokees - justified this exceptional mission.

Simmering beneath the election process all along has been the crucial issue of voting rights for the former slaves known in the tribe as Freedmen, who are Cherokee citizens of African origin and who have had to fight in the courts to be able to vote.

Read John Stremlau's commentary

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Filed under: Black in America • Politics • Race