Voting districts approved
Jan 16, 2018 | 4726 views | 0 0 comments | 577 577 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New voting districts were formally approved for the San Juan County Commission and School Board positions in a January 11, 2018 ruling by Federal Judge Robert Shelby.

The ruling formalizes Shelby’s previous rulings and sets an election for all three commission seats and all five school board seats in November, 2018.

San Juan County Clerk John David Nielson is moving ahead to set up the election schedule using the new district boundaries, even as the San Juan County Commission has formally appealed the ruling to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In his January 11 statements, Judge Shelby denied a county motion to alter or amend his judgment on previous decisions. He ordered the implementation of his rulings and declared the case closed.

On the same day, the county filed a notice to appeal rulings by Judge Shelby on at least five separate motions.

San Juan County has suggested in separate statements that the appeals court, based in Denver, may give the county a more favorable ruling.

Judge Shelby presided over the trial in which Commissioner Phil Lyman was convicted of organizing the Recapture Canyon protest in 2012.

Lyman appealed that conviction before the Court of Appeals, arguing that Shelby should have recused himself from the initial trial.

The Navajo Nation filed a series of lawsuits against San Juan County after the 2010 Census, arguing the voting districts and policies discriminate against Native Americans.

The population in the county is roughly split between Native Americans and non-Native Americans, with Native Americans making up 50.4 percent of the total population in the 2010 Census.

Despite the 50/50 split, there has never been more than one Native American on the three-member county commission or more than two Native Americans on the five-member school board.

The new boundaries create a Native American majority in two of three commission districts and three of five school districts.

For instance, Native Americans will make up 66 percent of the population in one Commission district (currently represented by Lyman) and 80 percent in a second district (currently represented by Rebecca Benally).

Similarly, the new school district boundaries will have a Native American majority in three districts of 65, 85, and 88 percent, (currently represented by Steve Black, Elsie Dee and Nelson Yellowman, respectively).

A third lawsuit filed by the Navajo Nation, arguing that the vote-by-mail system used by the county discriminated against Native American voters, is set to go to trial before Judge Shelby this winter.

It will be a busy election season in San Juan County, with all eight races on the ballot, in addition to other county positions.

A new San Juan County Assessor will be selected to fill the unexpired term of Shelby Seely. Seely was recently removed from office because he had not secured the necessary licensure for the position.

Other state and federal offices on the ballot will include races for state and federal House of Representatives, and US Senate.
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