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Native Americans vote early at court-mandated polling place in Nixon

Members of the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe work at the new polling place in Nixon on the first day of early voting Saturday.

Over 50 Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe members who previously had to travel almost 100 miles to vote early did so on tribal land, in the town of Nixon Saturday.

The new polling place was mandated by a judge last month after tribal leaders won a federal case accusing Washoe County and the Secretary of State of discriminating against them under the Voting Rights Act.

Robert James, a plaintiff on the case who was born and raised on the Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation, said he "never thought (he) would see the day."

Tribal chairman Vinton Hawley said the 2,800 enrolled tribe members finally have equal access to be able to fulfill their civic duty.

"It's a huge accomplishment. It's kind of surreal to be here and see it," Hawley said. "It means that we are involved. It means we have a voice."

In elections past, tribal members would have to travel to Wadsworth, about 20 minutes south, to vote on Election Day and more than twice as far to register to vote.

Last month's court order mandated the early voting and Election Day polling place in Nixon, as well as a polling place in Schurz on the Walker River Reservation in Mineral County.

53 people voted in Nixon and 24 people voted in Schurz on Saturday, the first day of early voting, according to a tribal spokesman.

"I see a lot of elders, a lot of community members coming in, I see a lot of younger voters coming in to take advantage of it," Hawley said. "It's really awesome to see and be a part of."

Over 4,800 registered Democrats and 3,000 registered Republicans cast their ballots on the first day of early voting Saturday in Washoe County.

Click here for a full list of early voting locations and hours.

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