SALT LAKE CITY — The Latest on Navajo suing a southern Utah county over all-mail voting (all times local):
A judge is questioning why she needs to order a southern Utah county to restore polling places for the November election when government officials there already plan to open three locations for in-person voting on the Navajo Nation to supplement all-mail voting.
U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish didn’t rule Wednesday on a request from the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission to require San Juan County to open nine polling places. She said she hopes to issue a ruling soon so the issue can be resolved before the election.
The commission filed a lawsuit earlier this year over the county’s move to all-mail elections in 2014, saying it disenfranchised tribal voters.
Judge Parrish grilled attorney Arusha Gordon about why her clients don’t trust the county to follow through on the plan. Gordon said county officials have failed to come through before, prompting the need for a court-ordered requirement. Gordon warned that there’s no way for a redo if Navajos aren’t given equal opportunity to cast ballots.
Jesse Trentadue, an attorney for the county, said the county is taking seriously its job of making sure Navajos have equal opportunity to vote as white residents.
Members of the Navajo Nation who say a 2014 switch to all-mail voting in a southern Utah county disenfranchised tribal voters want a judge to order an injunction restoring polling places for the November election.
The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission is also asking that bilingual election staff be at the polling places to help Navajo speakers. The commission filed a lawsuit earlier this year.
A federal judge will hear arguments on the request Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
San Juan County officials say the new voting system led to higher voter turnout in 2014. They accuse the Navajo plaintiffs of fabricating the claims in the lawsuit in an attempt to control local politics.
The only polling place two years ago was in Monticello, a city in the northern part of the county far from the Navajo Nation.