Challenger asks for recount in Cherokee chief race

By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS | June 29, 2011 | 2:44 PM EDT

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — The challenger in a disputed race for principal chief of the Cherokee Nation says he's formally requesting a recount.

Longtime tribal councilman Bill John Baker said Wednesday he wants to know why the American Indian tribe's election commission overturned the original results from Saturday's election.

Unofficial final returns announced Sunday morning showed Baker leading three-term incumbent Chief Chad Smith by 11 votes. But when the election commission certified the election Monday, Smith had a seven-vote lead out of more than 15,000 cast.

The election commission hasn't said why the vote totals changed. A message left Wednesday wasn't immediately returned.

A spokesman for Smith didn't immediately return a message.

The Cherokee Nation is Oklahoma's largest tribe and one of the nation's biggest, with membership approaching 300,000 members.