The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is a federally recognized tribe with a reservation located outside of Tucson. Between 3,600 and 4,000 people, 93% of whom are Native American, live on the reservation.
Like other Native communities in Arizona and across the country, the Tribe has been hard hit by COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of more than 11 members in the Tucson area. To ensure social distancing and to avoid overcrowding the polls on Election Day, Yaqui voters need access to safe, accessible early voting sites.
From 2010 to 2018, the Tribe had an early voting site on the Pascua Yaqui reservation. But one month before the August 2018 primary, the County Recorder abruptly relocated the site to a different location in Tucson off the reservation. The nearest early voting site is now eight miles away. This may not seem far, but one in five tribal residents do not have access to a car. For these voters, it will take two to three hours roundtrip by public bus to vote early in person. Riding the bus to vote during pandemic is not an option for many Yaqui voters, who face a disproportionately higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 because of socioeconomic inequities. More than a quarter of tribal residents are medically uninsured. And the median income on the reservation is half that of Pima County, and the unemployment rate is 26%.
But the County Recorder’s office has dug in its heels and has refused to provide any safe, accessible early voting options on the reservation.
On September 25, CLC sent a letter to the County Recorder’s office on behalf of the Tribe explaining that its refusal to permit early voting on the Pascua Yaqui reservation violates federal law. The letter demands that the County Recorder reinstate early voting on the reservation and provide ballot drop-off locations to ensure Yaqui voters equal access to safe voting options amid COVID-19.