Court Declines to Reinstate Early Voting Site for Arizona Tribe

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. 22, 2020, a federal court ruled that Pima County, Arizona does not have to reinstate an early voting site during the period of Oct. 26-30 for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. The Reservation will also have no ballot dropbox on the premises.

The Tribe, represented by Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Osborn Maledon, and the Indian Law Center at Arizona State University, has been fighting for the reinstatement of the early voting location since it was removed in 2018 by Pima County Recorder Ann Rodriguez. The Pascua Yaqui reservation has slightly more than 4,000 residents.

The Pima County Recorder’s decision not to reinstate an early voting site on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation has left Yaqui voters behind.

The court heard stories from Tribal Council representatives and Tribal members, who described the hardships they face without equal access to early voting. It is clear that the Tribe does not have the same kind of access that their white neighbors enjoy. By deciding not to intervene, the court failed to protect a community that is simply fighting for equality.

Arizona’s history with discrimination against Native Americans is well-documented. The Arizona Constitution barred Native Americans from voting in state elections until 1948. Literacy tests and other barriers existed for decades afterward.

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 Tucson mayor, the Pima County Board of Supervisors, and the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, as well as voting rights advocates.

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