The lawsuit, filed on January 12 by attorneys representing the Navajo Nation and six local residents, asks that 2012 elections be put on hold until the district boundaries can be redrawn.
On November 14, 2011, Commissioners adjusted the districts, moving the Ucolo and Cedar Point precincts from District One (Bruce Adams) to District Two (Phil Lyman).
Commission voting districts had not changed since 1984, when they were established as part of a legal action involving the county and the United State Department of Justice.
The previous boundaries were based on the 1980 Census and were not adjusted after the 1990 and 2000 Census. The lawsuit asks that the boundaries be redrawn, using the 2010 Census, to create three equally-sized districts.
Population figures have changed since the 1980 Census. Instead of three equally-sized districts, the current boundaries establish districts that range from 5,061 residents in District One to 4,815 residents in District Three (Kenneth Maryboy). District Two contains 4,870 residents.
The difference in size between the districts is five percent, which is within the ten percent variance allowed by the US Supreme Court. However, the lawsuit states that the district size variance before the November, 2011 change is 16.22 percent.
The lawsuit alleges that the current voting districts “dilute and violate the voting rights of the Navajo plaintiffs”.
Currently, two districts have an estimated 30 percent of Native American residents, while the third district is an estimated 93 percent Native American.
A map proposed by the Navajo Nation would create two districts that have a majority of Native American residents. The third proposed district is primarily non-Native American.
The proposal would split Blanding into three separate districts. It would require changes in several precinct boundaries.
Between 2000 and 2010, the major growth in the county was in northern precincts. The La Sal and Spanish Valley precincts grew from 670 to 1,166 residents.
The Native American population actually decreased by 765 residents over the same time frame, from 8,026 in 2000 to 7,261 in 2010. San Juan County residents who are Native American fell from 56.5 percent in 2000 to 50.4 percent in 2010.