OWYHEE, October 20—Shoshone-Paiute Tribal Chairman Brian Mason and Vice-Chairman Arnold Thomas returned after two days of challenging Elko County in the Fourth Judicial District Court, County of Elko, State of Nevada for the equal access of voting rights for the tribe and community of Duck Valley.
The fight paid off. The Shoshone-Paiute Tribes will now have an equal amount of voting days as the city of Elko.
“That’s the biggest win,” said Chairman Mason. A win for Shoshone-Paiutes, and a win for Indian Country. Chief District Judge Alvin R. Kacin ordered Elko County to allow Duck Valley access to the polls for Nevada elections—increasing what was two days of voting to now five days.
Mason said that according to the Elko County Clerk’s office, we only have 170 registered voters here. “That’s because if you’re a Nevada resident and you have an Idaho drivers’ license, you are not considered to be eligible to vote.” Mason explained that Duck Valley residents “don’t fit into the widget,” that our Post Office is located in Nevada, and due to our sovereign status, tribal members can have either Nevada or Idaho licenses. Mason, in his position as Tribal Chairman, has the authority to inform through a letter that Nevada residents do reside within the state.
The issue caught the attention of the Native Nevada Vote and the Four Directions, a Native-led national voting rights organization dedicated to advancing equality at the ballot box across Indian Country. They called and asked if we wanted to sue, and Tribal Chairman Mason said yes.
The attention didn’t stop there. The news also hit Washington, D.C., catching the attention of an international voting rights group. Anja Mihr and Giovanni Caligiuri of the Election Observation Mission for Mid-Term Elections 2022 were in Owyhee last week to capture information on the situation. Although they could not reveal anything other than their mission here at Owyhee, it’s hard to turn a blind eye to the inequalities handed to Native American communities by state governments.
“They flew here, they drove here, they found out we were getting a raw deal,” said Mason.
In court, Mason said, “We needed to prove that we had an adequate election building, that we had experience holding elections, which our election board does.”
Mason says this was all done pro bono, in other words, there was no cost to the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes. It was all organized and challenged by the Four Directions, with support from the Native Nevada Vote Project.
There will be poll workers to hire, training to be had, and votes to collect from Shoshone-Paiutes, from our non-Native friends in outlying areas and from our community in general for early voting and Election Day.
Chairman Mason and Vice-Chairman Thomas are grateful for Four Directions’ and the Native Nevada Vote Project for their help in this historic lawsuit which increases access to Nevada’s polls five-fold. Starting in 2024 we will have equal access to the polls with the same days and hours as the citizens of the Elko County seat.
Donna Semans with Four Directions offered a profound statement, “Shoshone-Paiutes were given citizenship in 1924 and it took until 2022 to acquire equal access in the Electoral process.”
Photo Members of Four Directions, a Native-led national voting rights organization dedicated to advancing equality at the ballot box across Indian Country and Shoshone-Paiute Tribal Chairman Brian Mason and Tribal Vice-Chairman Arnold Thomas after their historic win in the Fourth Judicial District Court in Elko.