Leonard Gorman, the Executive Director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Division, presented a proposal to redistrict the county commission voting districts.
County Clerk Norman Johnson said that he has received only summary information from the Census and does not know how Gorman obtained his data.
Gorman proposed three new voting districts and included a racial breakdown of each district.
“I don’t know how they got their figures,” said Johnson. “The Census information I received shows 50.4 percent Native American. He was quoting much higher figures.”
The commission districts were created in the 1980s after a federal court ruling imposed a consent decree on San Juan County. Instead of the election of commissioners at-large, three districts were created, in part to assure Native American representation on the county commission.
Since that time, a Native American has been elected to the county commission from district #3, which is anchored in the southeast corner of the county, and includes voters from Montezuma Creek, Aneth, Red Mesa, Mexican Hat and Bluff areas.
District #2, which includes White Mesa and four Blanding precincts, has been represented by an Anglo from Blanding.
District #1, which covers the northern and western side of the county, and includes Oljato and Navajo Mountain, has been represented by an Anglo from Monticello.
Johnson reports that the districts were not adjusted after the 2000 Census. Using the 2000 Census numbers, District #1 had 36 percent of the population, #2 had 29 percent of the population and #3 had 35 percent of the population.
Moving a few precincts from one district to another may roughly equalize the size of the districts and be the least disruptive process.
Changing the number and size of the precincts may be difficult for a number of reasons, including the geographic realities of the massive county.
Another conflicting factor is that the current precincts were created during the court case and were approved by a federal judge. Officials are concerned that wholesale changes would need to involve the judicial system.
“We support the consent decree and will follow it until we hear otherwise,” said Johnson.