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San Juan Voting Districts Ruled Unconstitutional

San Juan Voting Districts Ruled Unconstitutional
February 29
09:42 2016

It’s an election year, but forget the Rock the Vote campaign; a federal judge is rocking San Juan County’s voting districts.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby has ruled that the county commission voting districts are flawed.

This comes two months after San Juan County’s school board districts were ruled to be unconstitutional. In redrawing the school districts, county commissioners essentially ignored input from the Navajo Nation.

The county commission districts were redrawn in 2011 – for the first time since 1986. However, the districts were gerrymandered to dilute Navajo voting power. Despite Navajo voters being the majority in the county, they were packed in one district. District 3 is 93-percent Navajo.

In 1986 San Juan County had three districts, one predominantly Navajo. But in the 2011 redistricting, the Navajo voters saw no gain, even though their slight voter majority overall should give them control of two of the county commission seats.

“In redrawing the districts the county may have made District 3 overwhelmingly Navajo because they thought they had to,” Shelby said.

However, Shelby ruled that the county commission “failed to attend to minimal redistricting obligations for over 25 years.” Shelby ordered the county to try again.

“It has been costly to convince the county commission that they need to abide by the voting rights law,” said Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.

“Two of the three seats should be Navajo controlled, said Gorman.

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