RENO — 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 battle over alleged violations of the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du 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 concluding Native Americans were being denied equal access to the polls.
Nine additional tribes followed with a similar request last week in federal court in Reno.
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 joining the fight include the Reno Sparks Indian Colony in Washoe County, the Yerington Paiutes in Lyon County and three tribes in Elko County.
They also include one tribe each in Humboldt County, Churchill County, Nye County and Clark County.
The tribes sent a letter Friday through the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada to Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office requesting early polling sites from Oct. 29 through Nov. 4.
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 long distances some must travel to vote early or cast ballots on Election Day.
The Reno Sparks Indian Colony as well as the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe are also requesting on-site early polling spots. They cited evidence presented during the original lawsuit that showed Native Americans were more comfortable voting on reservations and sometimes felt intimidated at majority-white precincts.
The defendants have not responded to the latest filings.
Cegavske’s office did not immediately respond to telephone or email messages seeking comment on Tuesday.