Navajo Nation files election complaint against San Juan Co. over primary races

SALT LAKE CITY — The Navajo Nation’s Human Rights Commission has filed an election complaint against San Juan County over incidents during the June 26 primary.

County officials, in turn, have accused the Navajo Nation of “harassment.” It’s the latest salvo between the two sides in a contentious legal battle over elections in the Four Corners area. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby has ordered a special election for county commission and school board seats after he found racial gerrymandering took place.

The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission said it had two poll watchers in Montezuma Creek and Monument Valley, monitoring interactions between voters and poll workers. The commission said it documented:

  • Electioneering and voter intimidation by poll worker
  • Failure of lights and air conditioning
  • Insufficient staffing
  • Lack of ballots, inability to produce new ballots
  • Lack of internet and back-up voter roll
  • General lack of decorum

The commission said it has submitted a complaint to the Utah Lt. Governor’s Office about its complaints.

In a statement to FOX 13, San Juan County officials dismissed many of the complaints. County leaders noted a federal judge heard similar complaints last week and took the Nation’s attorneys to task for not working with the county instead of running to court.

“San Juan County is also concerned about electioneering and voter intimidation at the polls in June. However, it was not at the hands of poll workers, but rather a non-profit organization with which San Juan County is unfamiliar,” the statement said. “The County has received reports that these individuals introduced themselves to voters as San Juan County officials and urged voters to vote for Kenneth Maryboy. The County is investigating the matter and may pursue criminal charges against those involved.”

Going through the list of complaints, San Juan County said a lack of internet is common in parts of the county, and the polling places with no lighting or air conditioning were owned by the Navajo Nation.

“If the other stated concerns are legitimate, we encourage the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission to simply follow Judge Shelby’s order from the July 2nd hearing and bring those concerns to the County so that they can be reviewed and addressed,” the county said in its statement.

A federal judge found San Juan County gerrymandered its borders for county commission and school board districts along racial lines. Native Americans make up a demographic majority, but were a political minority. The judge ordered boundaries redrawn and special elections held this year.

Last week, the Navajo Nation sought to have the county held in contempt over issues in the primary election, but Judge Shelby refused.