- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Two Nevada tribes are asking a federal judge to order the state of Nevada and two counties to pay them more than $100,000 in legal expenses in a growing legal fight over alleged violations of the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965.

A judge in Reno ordered Washoe and Mineral counties earlier this month to establish new early voting and Election Day voting sites on two Paiute reservations in northern Nevada after granting an emergency injunction sought by Native Americans suing over equal access to the polls.

Since then, nine additional tribes have asked the secretary of state to take similar action and establish new polling sites on their lands.

Lawyers for the Pyramid Lake and Walker River Paiute tribes filed the request last Friday for $117,000 in lawyer fees and expenses incurred to date, the Reno Gazette-Journal first reported. That’s 10 times more than the tribes said it would have cost to comply with their lawsuit in the first place.

“This case required plaintiffs’ counsel to invest substantial time and resources to give this case the attention it deserves,” attorney Rendal Miller wrote in the motion.

The legal battle is the latest in a series of cases arguing violation of the Voting Rights Act in Arizona, Utah, Montana, Alaska and the Dakotas.

The nine new Nevada tribes now asking the state for similar relief include three in Elko County and one each in Clark, Washoe, Lyon, Humboldt, Churchill and Nye counties.

The Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada wrote to Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske on behalf of the latest tribes last Friday requesting early polling sites from Oct. 29 through Nov. 4.

U.S. District Judge Miranda Du issued an emergency order Oct. 7 granting early polling sites on the Pyramid Lake reservation in Nixon and Walker River reservation Schurz, as well as an Election Day site in Nixon, while the overall case continues.

Those tribes say their members were being denied equal access to the polls due to the lengthy trips to vote early or cast ballots on election days, with some people forced to travel nearly 100 miles.

Vinton Hawley, chairman of the intertribal council and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, said in the Oct. 21 letter to Cegavske that residents of the Duckwater Shoshone Reservation in central Nevada’s Nye County face a 275-mile round-trip to cast early ballots in person or vote on Election Day in the county seat of Tonopah. It is about 200 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The defendants have not responded to the latest requests and Cegavske’s office did not immediately respond to telephone or email messages seeking comment.

The Reno Sparks Indian Colony and the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe are requesting on-site early polling spots at health clinics on those reservations. They cited evidence presented during the original lawsuit that showed Native Americans sometimes felt intimidated at majority-white precincts.

“The establishment of these two sites on tribal lands would make it much more comfortable for urban Native Americans to participate in the electoral process,” Hawley wrote.

Bret Healy, a consultant working with the tribal council, said Tuesday it took less than two days for Washoe and Mineral counties to agree to comply with Du’s earlier order to establish the early voting offices on the Pyramid Lake and Walker River reservations.

“If Secretary Cegavske were to take action in a timely fashion, many further early voting offices could be open by the requested Oct 29 date,” said Healy, a consultant with Four Directions, Inc., a nonprofit voting rights advocate for Native Americans.

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The story has been corrected to show the nine tribes requested in an Oct. 21 letter to Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske that the state create new polling sites on additional reservations. They did not make a formal request in federal court.

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