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Navajo Candidate Back on Ballot

Navajo Candidate Back on Ballot
August 09
12:44 2018

He’s back! In May a judge booted former Navajo Nation delegate Willie Greyeyes off the ballot for a San Juan County Commissioner seat.

Now that decision has been reversed by a federal judge.

Even though he has been registered to vote and held various local positions in the county, the judge ruled last May that Greyeyes did not live in San Juan County. But on August 7 U.S. District Judge David Nuffer restored Greyeyes’ voting rights and ordered his name back onto the November ballot.

“The Nation is pleased with the District Court’s decision to reinstate Mr. Greyeyes on the ballot,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said.

Greyeyes secured the Democratic nomination for San Juan County Commission District 2 in March. Soon after, the county clerk’s office began an investigation into his residency, based on allegations that Greyeyes did not reside in Utah.

However, at the hearing San Juan County Clerk John Nielson admitted to backdating the complaint from April 16 to March 20. (The April 16 date missed the deadline for filing challenges.)

The district court found this backdating violated Greyeyes’s due process rights. The ruling allows Greyeyes’ name to appear on the November ballot for County Commission District 2.

“It is disappointing to see San Juan County’s vigorous attempts to keep Navajo candidates off the ballot,” Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez said. “The county should be working with Navajo individuals toward addressing issues that affect all its residents in San Juan County, not working to prohibit them from running for office.”

This is the first county commissioner election since the courts ordered the districts redrawn. The court found that the districts had been drawn to dilute the Navajo vote.

Navajos make up approximately half of registered voters in the county.

Greyeyes has lived in San Juan County his entire life, his attorney, Maya Kane, said. Kane suggested that the Republican-led county has targeted Greyeyes, a Democrat, after a judge redrew the voting districts. County leaders are also still fighting the redistricting in the courts, arguing that the judge’s new voting districts unfairly carve up the city of Blanding, Utah.

Navajo leaders condemned the Greyeyes probe, but county officials insist it has nothing to do with politics or race. San Juan County officials said that Greyeyes’ neighbors – and a sister – told a sheriff’s deputy that he lives primarily in Tuba City, Ariz.

Greyeyes is a board member of Utah Dine Bik’eyah, a organization that fought to make Bears Ears a national monument. That was something opposed by most of San Juan County’s leadership.

“The importance of Navajo candidates’ participation in local elections cannot be overstated, especially in counties where their participation has been undermined for so long,” Begaye said. “Mr. Greyeyes will be the first Navajo candidate to run for a position in the new County Commission District 2. We believe the district court’s decision upholds not only Mr. Greyeyes’ rights but the rights of all Navajos who wish to run for public office in San Juan County.”

Judge Nuffer’s decision prohibited the county from taking any action against Greyeyes regarding the challenges to his candidacy filed in March and April of 2018. However, the judge did not make any decision regarding Greyeyes’ principal place of residence or his eligibility to hold office.

 

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