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Election Day: More Polling Places on Nevada Tribal Lands

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A Native American group calls the introduction of a polling place to the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony "history in the making." (Bill Beckham/Twenty20)
A Native American group calls the introduction of a polling place to the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony "history in the making." (Bill Beckham/Twenty20)
 By Katherine Davis-YoungContact
October 22, 2018

RENO, Nev. – During the 2016 election, two Nevada Native American tribes – the Pyramid Lake Paiute and the Walker River Paiute – won a federal lawsuit to get voter registration sites and polling places on tribal lands.

In the upcoming election, even more polling places will be available throughout Nevada's Native American communities.

Stacey Montooth, who is enrolled with the Walker River Paiute nation and works for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, says opening up more voting sites for Native Americans is a critical change.

She says her grandmother, who is over 90 and doesn't drive, in previous elections would have to have a family member drive her more than 70 miles round trip to cast a ballot.

Montooth says that's a common story in Native American families.

"Part of the federal government's plan when they created reservations was to put our ancestors in isolated areas,” she points out. “So our relatives, who are in Moapa, our relatives that are in Fort McDermitt, they really, really have a challenge to get to the polling place. "

A survey by the Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif. showed that in the 2016 election, Native American communities in Nevada, which had polling places on tribal lands, saw voter turnout up to 24 percent higher than those that didn't.

The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony for the first time this year will offer multiple options for early voting and will have its own Election Day polling place in the Hungry Valley Gym.

Montooth calls this "history in the making."

"The time when we have true, true equality with all other citizens of this country is when we get to go cast our ballot," she states.

Native Americans were not granted full citizenship in the United States until 1924. Nevada is home to more than 30,000 Native Americans and more than 20 federally recognized tribes.

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