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

A "Vote Here/Aqui" sign on the side of the road with a cactus in the background
A sign points voters to a voting center for the Democratic primary in Sun City, Arizona, U.S., March 17, 2020. Photo by REUTERS/Cheney Orr.

On Oct. 12, 2020, also known as Indigenous Peoples Day, 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 Oct. 26-30.

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.

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 Oct. 26 to Nov. 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.

Instead of helping the Tribe, 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 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 Oct. 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.

Corey handles media relations for the CLC voting rights and redistricting teams and creates online content. Follow @cgfromdc on Twitter