Judge won’t block November mail-in balloting in Navajo voting lawsuit

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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge will allow San Juan County to proceed with mail-in balloting for the November election, denying a request to implement changes to accommodate Navajo voters.

In a ruling handed down Friday night, U.S. District Court Judge Jill Parrish declined to force changes in the last few weeks leading up to the election. However, she allowed the lawsuit by the Navajo Human Rights Commission (backed by the American Civil Liberties Union) to go forward.

Judge Parrish wrote that changes needed to be implemented to assist Navajo voters could not be scrambled fast enough for the November election, with early voting.

“The issuance of an injunction at this stage would only set the County up to fail. Even if the court had been able to issue a decision in this matter directly following oral arguments, the County would not have been able to properly correct these issues in time for the start of early voting,” she wrote.

In 2014, San Juan County (like most counties in Utah) switched to mail-in balloting, leaving one polling place in Monticello open. The commission argues that it favors white voters over Native American voters by forcing those who need ballot translation assistance to drive hours to vote, and access to mail is often difficult. Navajo is also an unwritten language, creating additional issues, the ACLU has argued.

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