Settlement Reached: Early Voting Site will be Established on Arizona Tribe’s Reservation, Following CLC Lawsuit

Issues

TUCSON, AZ – Today, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Campaign Legal Center (CLC), and Pima County Recorder’s Office announced a settlement agreement has been reached in Pascua Yaqui Tribe v. Rodriguez. This settlement represents a significant victory for the reservation’s 4,000 residents, ending a long-running dispute stemming from a controversial decision in 2018 by former Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez to remove an early voting location on the reservation. The Tribe is represented by Campaign Legal Center, Osborn Maledon, and the Indian Legal Clinic at Arizona State University, who sued Rodriguez on Oct. 11, 2020 in federal court in Tucson.

The parties signed an agreement Friday that will establish an early voting site on the Pascua Yaqui reservation before the 2022 midterm election for every statewide primary and general election. The agreement sets a deadline of February 2022 for the Tribe and Pima County Recorder to identify an acceptable early voting location. It also establishes that the County will fully staff a drop box location during the early voting period.

Statement of Peter S. Yucupicio, Chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe: “The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, and it is just as important in Arizona Indian Country and the Pascua Yaqui Reservation as it is in the rest of Pima County. We thank the Pima County Recorder for agreeing to settle this matter, with the aim to work cooperatively with the Tribe and ensure that Tribal members have an equal opportunity to vote.”

Statement of Herminia Frias, Councilwoman of the Pascua Yaqu Tribe: “The agreement demonstrates once and for all that every vote matters. We did not accept no for an answer, we challenged the Recorder’s Office to protect our right to vote for everyone voting on the Pascua Yaqui reservation. Pima County Recorder Cázares-Kelly has brought a fresh and inclusive perspective, she respects Tribal Sovereignty, and we are ecstatic to have the opportunity to work with her.”

Statement of Jonathan Diaz, Legal Counsel for Voting Rights at Campaign Legal Center (CLC): “We’re pleased that Pascua Yaqui Tribe members will no longer have to travel 2-3 hours roundtrip just to vote at the nearest early voting site. The stories from Tribal Council representatives and Tribe members, who described the hardships they faced, made it clear that the Tribe did not have equal access to voting that their Pima County neighbors enjoyed. Ultimately, this case is a success story because the new Pima County Recorder, Gabriella Cázares-Kelly, heard these stories and agreed with the Tribe and its lawyers that something had to be done to ensure equal access to early voting.”

Statement of Gabriella Cázares-Kelly, Pima County Recorder: “The closure of the Pascua Yaqui early voting site is a clear, modern-day example of how Native American voting rights continue to remain under threat. It reminds us that we do not all start from the same starting line and some communities have to work harder to exercise our most basic and fundamental right. It is an honor to reinstate the early voting site to provide equitable access for Tribal community. We look forward to many years of working with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Tohono O’odham Nation, the first inhabitants of what is now considered Pima County, to ensure everyone is able to participate in our democracy.”

Arizona’s history with discrimination against Native Americans is well-documented. The Arizona Constitution barred Native Americans from voting in state elections until 1948 – and literacy tests and other barriers existed for decades afterwards. 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. Before filing suit, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe won support for an early voting site from the Mayor of Tucson, the Pima County Board of Supervisors, and the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, as well as voting rights advocates.

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