San Juan County ends legal fight against Voting Rights Act decision

The first-ever Navajo majority commission halted a legal challenge to the ruling that ended discriminatory voting boundaries.


San Juan County Commissioner Willie Grayeyes, who was elected after the voting districts were redrawn, following a civil rights lawsuit.
Jolene Yazzie

Want to catch up on big developments quickly? See more stories here.

For decades, white Mormons have dominated the San Juan County government in southeastern Utah, despite the fact that the area is majority Navajo. Many Navajo citizens describe a systematic disenfranchisement of Native voters, which has resulted in a lack of public services, including ambulance access, road infrastructure and education funding. In 2016, a U.S. district court ruled that San Juan County violated both the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution by drawing the boundaries of its voting districts to disenfranchise Native voters (“How a Utah county silenced Native American voters — and how Navajos are fighting back,” HCN, 6/13/16).

The county was forced to redraw its county commission voting boundaries, and the first-ever majority Native-American commission took office in January 2019. In June, the commission, now with two Navajo members, voted not to challenge an appeals court decision, which upheld the previous ruling that the county had violated the Voting Rights Act, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.  

High Country News Classifieds