San Juan Co. signals it will appeal judge’s order on racial gerrymandering

SALT LAKE CITY — San Juan County leaders have indicated they will appeal a federal judge’s order to redraw political boundaries in Utah’s largest geographic county following a ruling on racial gerrymandering.

In a ruling right before the Christmas holiday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby accepted a new series of maps for county commission and school board seats. Some of the districts give Native Americans a demographic majority. Judge Shelby also ordered special elections for all commission and school board seats in 2018.

In a court filing signaling their appeal, San Juan County expressed concern that with a special election for all seats, there would be no continuity in government.

“Under this scenario, there would be no one with experience on the County Commission or the School Board. That would hardly constitute good governance and it would most certainly constitute a significant disruption to the ordinary process of governance. And then there is the matter of the current office holders and the electorate,” Jesse Trentadue, the attorney for San Juan County, wrote in the filing.

The county also asked the judge to finalize his ruling so they could go to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Meanwhile, the Navajo Nation Council issued a statement praising the ruling.

“For many years, our Navajo people were not adequately represented on the county commission and the school board due to the unfair voting boundaries that were intentionally imposed to diminish our votes and our voices. With today‚Äôs ruling we are optimistic that our communities will be treated fairly in the upcoming elections,” Delegate Davis Filfred said in a statement.