San Juan County officials are trying to halt a federal judge’s decision to redraw voting district boundaries that would give Navajos more political power in the county. Lawyers for the county made their case in an emergency motion filed Tuesday in the United States’ 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. They objected to special elections being held this year and requested that the elections continue under the previous redistricting plan until the appeal has been decided. In his Dec. 21 ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby gave Navajo voters a majority in two of three commission districts and three of five school board districts. Shelby had ordered that all seats be vacated and that special elections be held in November.
… San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman said the appeals court would give the case to a judge who is “unbiased and doesn’t have an ax to grind.” Shelby had been the judge for the 2015 trial in which Lyman was convicted of misdemeanor chargesstemming from a protest ride up Recapture Canyon, which is federal land where motorized vehicles are prohibited.
In Tuesday’s filing, the county’s lawyers argue that the new redistricting plan would be both racial and partisan gerrymandering because Navajo voters tend to support Democratic candidates.