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Tribes sue Nevada secretary of state, allege unequal access to voting

Posted at 11:21 AM, Sep 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-08 00:18:25-04

Two tribal chiefs filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske alleging unequal access to voting, KTNV has learned.

Walker River Paiute Chairman Bobby Sanchez and Pyramid Lake Paiute Chairman Vinton Hawley are the lead plaintiffs in the case expected to be filed in federal court Thursday in Reno. I have obtained an advanced copy of the complaint, which alleges the secretary of state has failed to accommodate the tribes, which have an estimated 50,000 voting-age members.

The tribes allege violations of the U.S. and state constitutions because their members are forced to travel great distances to vote, despite several entreaties to state officials to set up more proximate sites.

From the complaint: At issue in this case is Defendants’ failure to establish a site for in-person voter registration, an in-person early voting site, and an Election Day site (hereinafter “satellite offices”) on two reservations, thereby making voting less available to members of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (“PLPT”) and the Walker River Paiute Tribe (“WRPT”) in Washoe County and Mineral County in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the Constitution of the State of Nevada.

The complaint was filed Wednesday afternoon.

The outcome could have an impact in November, especially because Native Americans generally vote Democratic and especially because the presidential and Senate races in Nevada are considered competitive.