Court ruling expected Friday on tribal voting dispute

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RENO, Nev. (AP) - A federal judge in Nevada says she intends to decide Friday whether to grant an emergency order sought by two Paiute tribes who say the state and two counties are discriminating against them ahead of the November election in violation of the U.S Voting Rights Act.

A lawyer for the Pyramid Lake and Walker River tribes said Tuesday during a daylong hearing in Reno that a temporary injunction mandating satellite polling places on the two reservations is critical to ensuring their members' equal access to the ballot box.

U.S. District Judge Miranda Du said the emergency order they're seeking is a "pretty drastic" remedy. She peppered both sides with a series of questions about their take on the legal standards that are evolving in similar cases in a number of Western states.

Washoe County Deputy District Attorney Michael Large said even that if the voter registrar in Reno is ordered to set up a satellite site at Pyramid Lake, the registrar doesn't have the functional capability to pull it off before the election. He said it's a "practical impossibility."


The Justice Department is siding with two Nevada tribes' interpretation of a key part of the U.S. Voting Rights Act at issue in a legal battle with state and county officials over minority access to the polls.

Lawyers for the Paiute tribes are scheduled to go before a federal judge in Reno Tuesday with their emergency request for a court order establishing satellite voting sites on their reservations before the November election.

They accuse Nevada's secretary of state, Washoe and Mineral counties of illegally denying tribe members voting access afforded to people in wealthier, mostly white neighborhoods.

The counties say the sudden change would cost too much, and the state says it has no authority to intervene. But the Justice Department said in a new filing Monday they appear to be confusing voting rights with "voting convenience."

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