In Depth: How one tribe is fighting to vote early

The Pascua Yacqui Tribe in Tucson, Arizona, has been fighting for two years to reinstate its only early voting polling place. This is the latest battle over Native American voting rights. Paul Ingram/

By Matt Vasilogambros & Carrie Levine | Stateline

For the past two years, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe has lobbied unsuccessfully for the restoration of the sole early voting site on its reservation in the western reaches of Tucson, Arizona.

The coronavirus pandemic, with its disproportionate and devastating effect on Native Americans, is adding urgency to the tribe’s efforts while fueling its leaders’ concern that the closing, which happened before the 2018 midterm election, will suppress the vote. The Pascua Yaqui reservation, which is fewer than 2 square miles and has slightly more than 4,000 residents, does have an Election Day polling place, but leaders are wary of having too many voters use it on a single day during the pandemic. Taking the public bus to the nearest early voting site takes at least two hours roundtrip.

The fight over a single early voting site serving a small reservation in Arizona illustrates a continuing struggle by Indigenous communities across the country to have equal access to the ballot. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case over a 2016 Arizona law that limits who can return another person’s ballot, a law advocates say disadvantages Native American voters.


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October 2020