When the first community reported their results about 20 minutes after the polls closed, there was a good indication that this would be yet another close race. 37 Crystal Ridge voters favored Beasley Denson, while 35 voted for Chief Phillip Martin. And nearly three hours later, when all the votes were in, Denson held a 164 vote lead.
"For us to be leading, I feel pretty good," Denson said. "But we have some unaccounted ballots, which are absentee ballots. That concerns me, but we have to wait until tomorrow to see what happens."
Those ballots will be counted at one o'clock this afternoon. Tribal Election Committee Chairman Nellie Steve said nearly 500 absentee ballots were requested, but did not have an exact figure for those that were returned.
"We still have a good chance through the absentee ballots, which will be counted tomorrow," Chief Martin said. "I don't know how many absentee ballots are out there, but people are saying around 400. So, that could take up the deficit that I have now."
And Chief Martin -- a seven-time incumbent -- has reason be positive about the absentee ballots. During the first election, he received the most votes from those type of ballots. In the other camp, Denson is concerned about the integrity of the absentee votes, saying that he and his supporters will keep a close eye on the counting of those votes.
"They should have made sure that certain things are practiced to make sure that the ballots are pure and near perfect," Denson added.
If Denson is declared the winner when the official numbers are added up later this afternoon, he will be sworn in on July 10 -- which happens to be the day before the 58th annual Choctaw Indian Fair begins. He says that he will do everything he can to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible.
With all of the eight communities reporting, Beasley Denson has a 1,528 to 1,364 lead over incumbent Phillip Martin.
Martin - 124
Denson - 276
Martin - 72
Denson - 44
Martin - 226
Denson - 203
Martin - 35
Denson - 37
Martin - 436
Denson - 562
Martin - 157
Denson - 137
Martin - 142
Denson - 124
Martin - 172
Denson - 145
At 11:05 p.m., Tribal Election Committee Chairman Nellie Steve declared Beasley Denson the unofficial winner. Absentee ballots have not yet been counted. Those votes will be tallied Wednesday at 1:00 p.m, followed by a complete recount.
Steve says about 490 absentee ballots were requested, while she did not know exactly how many were returned.
Official results should be available late Wednesday afternoon. The winner will be sworn in on July 10.