Paiutes Sue Nevada for Voting Sites

     RENO, Nev. (CN) — Members of two tribes sued Nevada on Wednesday for refusing to provide voter registration sites or polling places on their remote reservations.
     Bobby D. Sanchez and four co-plaintiffs, members of the Pyramid Lake Paiute or Walker River Paiute tribes, say state and county officials violate the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment guarantees of due process by not establishing sites for in-person voter registration, early voting or Election Day voting on the reservations.
     Paiutes who live on the reservation must drive as much as 96 round-trip miles to register to vote in person, and to vote at the ballot box.
     Roughly 2,000 tribal members live on the Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation, whose 742 square miles are virtually all in Washoe County in northwestern Nevada. About 1,000 live on the 530-square-mile Walker River Paiute reservation in central Nevada. Seventy-three percent of that reservation is in Mineral County.
     Sanchez says “socioeconomic factors, such as poverty, homelessness and lack of reliable public and private transportation, and … the history of racial discrimination and hostility” toward tribal members make it “substantially more difficult, if not impossible” for them to vote.
     The disparity is enormous compared to the availability of in-person registration, early voting and Election Day voting for “Anglo residents of Washoe and Mineral County,” they say.
     Sanchez says there is no “legitimate, nonracial reason for refusing to establish” satellite offices serving the tribes.
     Bret Healy, a consultant with Four Directions, a tribal development program, estimated that 8,000 members of tribes throughout Nevada are affected by similar difficulties. He did not know how many of them are of voting age.
     Sanchez asks the court to order the secretary of state, county commissions and registrars to voters to establish satellite offices in “Indian Country immediately” for the 2016 general election and all future elections.
     They also ask the court to require Washoe and Mineral counties to obtain “preclearance” for “any and all future changes to voting law” to ensure they won’t “have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color.”
     They are represented by Rendal Miller in Winnemucca, who was not available by telephone Thursday afternoon.
     Years of studies have shown that Native Americans vote for Democrats by a large margin.

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