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Jacques Billeaud
Associated Press

PHOENIX — A judge will hear arguments Monday over whether to order an election official in southern Arizona to open an early voting and ballot collection operation for the Nov. 3 election on a reservation on the edge of Tucson that hasn't had an early voting site since 2016.

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe asked a federal court in Tucson earlier this week to force Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez to operate early voting and ballot collection sites on its reservation from Oct. 26 through Nov. 2. 

The tribe, which had early voting from 2010 through 2016, was told by Rodriguez's office weeks before the 2018 primary election that it was closing the reservation's only early voting site and instead was opening a new site off tribal land. 

The lawsuit said many tribal citizens who don't have a vehicle will have to take two buses to travel the eight miles to the closest polling place and that the early voting site's closure results in an unequal opportunity for Native Americans to participate in the election.

While there are no early voting sites on the reservation, there will be one polling place open on Election Day at the tribe's wellness center.

Rodriguez had said the reservation's earlier early voting site had only 44 votes in the 2016 general election, didn't have adequate security for storing ballots and didn't comply with polling place requirements within the Americans with Disabilities Act because its lobby couldn't hold more than a few voting booths. 

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Rodriguez had said her office had tried for years to help the the tribe find another location, but it couldn't find one. 

The lawsuit said non-Native communities in the county have seen an increase in the number of voting sites as the tribe has lost its early voting location, arguing Native voters are three to four times more distant from early voting sites than white areas in the Tucson area.

Rodriguez maintains it's too late in the election cycle to find an early voting site on the reservation. 

To do so, Rodriguez would have to hire seven to 10 additional poll workers, modify a site to make it compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, get hold of more equipment, and stock the location with preprinted ballots, which couldn't feasibly be produced before Election Day, her lawyers said in a court filing. 

"These processes normally take months to plan and implement, not days, and many simply cannot be completed before Election Day," her attorneys said.

Her lawyers said there's no evidence showing the absence of an early voting site on the reservation during this election cycle has had a disparate impact on Pascua Yaqui citizens to cast ballots.

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