U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby threw out redrawn district boundaries from both sides in the case and stated that an independent expert will oversee the process to redraw the boundaries.
The Navajo Nation filed lawsuits over the past years which allege that the boundaries of county election districts unfairly disadvantage Native American voters. The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission filed a separate lawsuit alleging that the vote-by-mail process unfairly discriminates against Native American voters.
While approximately 50 percent of county residents are Native Americans, there have never been more than one-third of Native Americans on the commission and never more than 40 percent of Native Americans on the school board.
In prior rulings, Judge Shelby ruled that the previous boundaries were unconstitutional and directed San Juan County to redraw the boundaries to make each district the same size.
In his most recent ruling, Shelby stated that the redrawn boundaries were still based mostly upon racial divides. Shelby will appoint an independent expert redraw the boundaries again.
Both the Commission and the Navajo Nation have submitted recommendations, but Shelby stated that an independent expert should be able to redraw the boundaries and avoid an “adversarial, litigation-driven process.”
In a statement, San Juan County Commissioners said that they welcome the ruling and look forward to an equal voice for all county residents.