The boundaries of election districts in a southeastern Utah county are unconstitutional and violate the rights of American Indians who make up roughly half the county’s population, a federal judge has ruled for the second time. San Juan County, a roughly 7,800-square-mile county that touches Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, was ordered last year to redraw its county commission and school board election districts after U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled that they were unconstitutional. Last week, Shelby ruled that the county’s new maps are still unconstitutional and primarily drawn on race.
Shelby said that county officials did not explain why they had a compelling government interest to draw districts mainly based on race at the expense of other considerations, such as compact areas and following political boundaries.
The Navajo Nation, which covers parts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, filed a lawsuit five years ago challenging the boundaries.
To try to fix the districts, San Juan County created three county commission districts and five school board districts that produced an equal number of “safe” districts with majority white or majority American Indian populations, while grouping remaining areas into “leftover” districts.