San Juan County’s request to stay November elections of all seats on the county commission and school board in wake of a federal court’s ruling to redraw voting districts has been denied by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Lawyers for the county filed an emergency motion on Feb. 27 in the Denver court. They objected to special elections being held this year and requested that the balloting continue under the previous redistricting plan until San Juan County’s appeal has been decided. In a Dec. 21 ruling, Judge Robert Shelby, U.S. District Court for Utah, gave Navajo voters a majority in two of three newly drawn commission districts and in three of five school board districts. Shelby had ordered that all seats be vacated and that special elections be held in November.
During an earlier hearing, Jesse Trentadue, a Salt Lake City-based attorney representing San Juan County, contended the redrawn boundaries would amount to unconstitutional gerrymandering in the sprawling southeast Utah county of 16,895 residents and would discriminate against white voters.
But Shelby said that for San Juan County’s discrimination argument to hold up, it would have to show a long-standing discrimination against white voters. Quite the contrary, the judge said, the county’s history is that there has been no time when whites didn’t control the county commission and school board.