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Navajo leaders say members are listed in wrong boundaries

September 7, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Navajo Nation leaders say voter rolls list many tribe members in wrong political boundaries in a southeastern Utah county where districts were overturned for being illegally drawn based on race.

Leaders are asking the state to intervene before possible incorrect ballots are sent out for the November election, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday.

San Juan County officials dispute that the problem is that large or serious, saying they are working to resolve some issues resulting from the quarter of residents using post office boxes instead of street addresses.

The residential coordinates of about 85 to 95 percent of Navajo voters are not correctly placed on voter rolls, and up to 25 percent are placed outside proper precincts, Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, told state lawmakers Wednesday.

The rolls show that “some live in rivers. Some live in ravines, or the canyon walls. This is ridiculous,” Gorman said.

Navajo leaders raised similar concerns in federal court earlier this year, claiming 2,000 voters did not receive or had incorrect ballots in the June county primary. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby declined to reopen the case, which had ordered redistricting. The judge noted that the county has “led a pretty vigorous effort” to comply with previous court orders.

San Juan County Administrator Kelly Pehrson described the tribe’s claims as “extremely invalid.”

The tribe is bringing back old claims that were rejected in court, said Jesse Trentadue, San Juan County’s attorney in the voting cases.

About 49 percent of residents in San Juan County are Navajo, according to U.S. Census estimates. The white population makes up about 47 percent. Navajo voters tend to lean Democratic, as the area’s white voters tend to be Republicans.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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