U.S. Justice Dept. to monitor San Juan Co. elections

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Department of Justice is deploying poll watchers to monitor elections in Utah’s Four Corners area on Tuesday.

The Justice Department said it will deploy poll watchers to monitor elections in 28 states to ensure people’s right to vote is unfettered. More than 500 poll watchers will be deployed nationwide.

“As always, our personnel will perform these duties impartially, with one goal in mind: to see to it that every eligible voter can participate in our elections to the full extent that federal law provides,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement Monday. “The department is deeply committed to the fair and unbiased application of our voting rights laws and we will work tirelessly to ensure that every eligible person that wants to do so is able to cast a ballot.”

The Justice Department said it will gather information on whether voters are subject to different voting qualifications on the basis of race, color or membership in a language minority group. It will also monitor whether polling spots are complying with language provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

San Juan County is being sued over voter access by Navajo people. The ACLU and the Navajo Human Rights Commission accuse the county of making it more difficult for Navajo voters to cast their ballots. When the county switched to a vote-by-mail process, the number of polling places shrunk. The ACLU complains that it can take Navajo voters hours to drive to the nearest polling place in Monticello and that mail-in ballots do not help when Navajo is an unwritten language.

A federal judge recently allowed San Juan County to proceed with mail-in balloting this election while the case moves forward in court.