CLC Files Suit to Reinstate Early Voting Site on Arizona Tribal Land

TUCSON, AZ – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed suit against Pima County (AZ) Recorder Ann Rodriguez for her failure to reinstate an in-person early voting site on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation during the period of October 26-30. Rodriguez is denying the Tribe equal access to voting in violation of the Voting Rights Act, during a pandemic that disproportionately kills Native Americans. The suit also seeks a ballot drop-off site on the reservation for voters to use from October 26 to November 2. The Pascua Yaqui reservation has slightly more than 4,000 residents.

Election Day voting options have been reduced in recent years, raising the importance of early voting access. From 2012 to 2018, Pima County closed 11% of its Election Day polling locations, more than all but eight counties nationwide.

“Local governments should do their best to offer and expand a menu of convenient early voting options, especially during a year in which COVID-19 safety protocols have increased the need to space out voters,” said Jonathan Diaz, voting rights counsel at Campaign Legal Center (CLC), which is representing the Tribe in a case that will be heard by the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. “Instead, the county recorder’s office has exhibited a disappointingly dismissive attitude about whether this historically disenfranchised community will have equal access to the ballot. It’s not right for these voters to be forced to travel more than two hours roundtrip to vote at the nearest early voting site—especially during a global health crisis.”

“The Tribe appreciates the continuing support of the Board of Supervisors, Mayor Romero, and others in the Tribe’s fight to restore our early voting site,” said Peter Yucupicio, chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. “The Pascua Yaqui vote matters – our voices need to be heard.”

“In an election where Native American votes could swing the results in Arizona, it’s important that every Yaqui that wants to vote is given an equal opportunity to do so,” said councilwoman Herminia Frias of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe has advocated for the reinstatement of the early voting location in every election since Rodriguez removed the site weeks before the 2018 election. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe has won support for an early voting site from the Tucson mayor, the Pima County Board of Supervisors and the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, as well as voting rights advocates. Rodriguez – who oversees early voting in the county – has the power to reinstate the site, but has refused after many attempts were made to resolve the dispute before seeking court intervention. CLC and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe arranged for Rodriguez’s office to visit two potential early voting sites on the Reservation on October 9, but she made no commitments after inspecting the sites.

On Sept. 25, 2020, CLC sent a letter to the Pima County Recorder on behalf of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe asking to reinstate an early voting center on the tribal reservation and a ballot drop-off site. 

Learn more about the dispute by visiting CLC’s case page.