Commission, school voting districts subject of hearings in Bluff, Monticello
Voting districts in San Juan County will be the focus of public hearings on November 16 at the Hideout Community Center in Monticello and the Bluff Community Center.
The hearing in Monticello will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., while the meeting in Bluff is from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Federal Judge Robert Shelby and recently appointed “Special Master” Dr. Bernard Grofman will attend the hastily-called public hearing.
New voting district boundaries will be drawn for the San Juan County Commission and the San Juan School District.
Maps of the proposed new voting districts will be available at the hearings.
They can be reviewed at the San Juan Record website – www.sjrnrews.com – as soon as they are released. A preliminary schedule stated that the maps could be released as soon as November 8.
Judge Shelby has signaled that he intends to finalize the boundaries by December 15 so they will be in place for the 2018 elections.
The Navajo Nation sued San Juan County in 2012, arguing that the voting districts violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Shelby previously ruled that the district boundaries should be adjusted. He recently rejected the adjusted voting boundaries that were established by San Juan County for the 2016 election.
The previous boundaries were established in the late 1980s after a civil rights lawsuit. As a result of the new districts, Native American candidates were elected to represent several individual districts in the county.
However, despite the fact that Native Americans make up approximately 50 percent of the population of San Juan County, there has never been more than one Native American on the three member Commission, or more than two Native Americans on the five-member school board.
Dr. Grofman will have a difficult task balancing the many competing elements in the remarkably diverse and sprawling county.
Some of the complicating factors include the separate communities with different demographic characteristics, isolated communities, and distinct voting precincts.
There are 20 precincts in San Juan County and it is likely that several precincts will be in more than one voting district.
According to the Washington Post, Dr. Grofman is a professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine. He is a specialist on redistricting whose work has been cited in nearly a dozen U.S. Supreme Court cases.