Nevadan Tribes Seek Litigation Over Voting Rights Dispute

Sep 9, 2016

From left to right, Vinton Hawley, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe chairman; Bobby Sanchez, Walker River Paiute Tribe Chairman; Robert James, Johnnie Williams, Rendal Miller, attorney for the tribes and Alvin Moyle, with Four Directions, Inc., a Native American advocacy group The group posed for a portrait outside of Reno's federal courthouse.
Credit Noah Glick/Reno Public Radio

With early election voting fast approaching, two Native American tribes in Nevada are suing the state after having their requests for on-site voter registration and polling places declined. Reno Public Radio's Marcus Lavergne has more on the obstacles they're facing.

Last month's requests, made by the Pyramid Lake and Walker River Paiute Tribes, were declined because they were "logistically unfeasible so close to the Nov. 8 election date."

That's according to Washoe County Registrar Luanne Cutler.

Vinton Hawley, Pyramid Lake Tribe Chairman, says tribe members are just standing up for their constitutional right.

"We're being vocal because we think we're really getting an unfair shot when it comes to elections."

The tribes filed the lawsuit earlier this week arguing that a lack of access has hindered Native-American participation.

"In essence tribal members in the Pyramid Lake and Walker River Paiute reservations have to pay a poll tax. They have to put money toward getting an equal right to vote"

That was Consultant Bret Healy with Four Directions, a Native American advocacy group.

He says Paiute tribe members have to jump through hoops to vote, especially if they have a Tribal ID rather than State ID, no Internet access or no transportation.

"Nixon, Nevada's a 96-mile round trip from the Washoe County Registrar's office, Incline Village is 75 miles. Guess what, Incline Village has an early vote sight. Pyramid Lake does not."

The Washoe County Registrar was unable to comment further while the lawsuit goes through litigation. Early voting in Nevada starts next month.