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Protecting the Bill of Rights in Utah since 1958

Our Voting Rights Lawsuit is Going to Trial!

11 September 2017 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

We are happy to report a breakthrough in our lawsuit to protect the voting rights of Navajo and rural voters in San Juan County! IMG 4319

To refresh your memory, Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission v. San Juan County et al is our lawsuit, brought with co-counsel, challenging San Juan County’s decision to switch to a mail-only voting system.  Our Plaintiffs are the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and several individual members of the Navajo Nation.  After our plaintiffs sued, the County announced that it was reopening a limited number of polling places for election day voting in 2016 and future elections.  We continued to assert our plaintiffs’ claims that the County was still violating the federal Voting Rights Act and the constitution. 

On September 7, we received the court’s decision that our case on behalf of the will be moving forward to a trial on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims that the County is not providing effective language assistance to Navajo-speaking voters and is providing unequal voting opportunities to Navajo voters.

Judge Parrish also granted our motion to dismiss several counterclaims, vindicating our position that the counterclaims were a distraction and immaterial to the issues at the heart of the lawsuit.

This court ruling gives San Juan County yet another opportunity to implement positive improvements to its voting system before the 2018 mid-term elections, when San Juan County voters will cast their ballots for federal representatives, some state representatives, and multiple local offices.

So, what would positive change for voters look like in San Juan County?

Among other things, the ACLU of Utah believes that the county needs to provide improved language assistance for Navajo voters (both at the polls and in informational materials before the election). Another goal is for the County to re-open at least all the polling places that were in use just before the switch to vote-by-mail.

A trial date has not yet been set, but we will keep you posted. In the meantime, you can read Judge Parrish’s decisions for yourself here and here