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.
Colleen O’Brien didn’t know her usual polling place wouldn’t be open for Montana’s May 25’s special election to fill Montana’s U.S. House seat until last week. “It’s making it incredibly inconvenient at best, and it is disenfranchising an underserved, underrepresented population at worst,” O’Brien says. O’Brien votes in East Glacier, on the Blackfeet Reservation, in Glacier County. The election administrator there has decided to cut five of its usual polling places, consolidating seven down to two — not five as we erroneously reported earlier. County officials say that’s necessary to cut costs, but O’Brien, who’s not Native American, worries the consolidation will make it harder for people living in more far flung areas of the reservation to vote.
The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission told a Utah federal judge that Utah’s San Juan County can’t dodge its bid to find the county liable for failing to provide equal opportunities to vote to Navajo citizens, saying that a 2016 plan by the county didn’t provide equally accessible polling places to Navajo voters seeking to vote in person. The commission and a handful of Navajo citizens on Friday replied to the defendant’s opposition to their motion for summary judgment in a suit against San Juan County and some of its officials that claims the county’s voting procedures hinder Navajo citizens’ ability to participate in the political process on equal terms with white voters, in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment.
North Dakota is the only state in the country without voter registration, which makes voting easier in theory. The American Civil Liberties Union, however, calls the state’s voter identification laws the most restrictive in the nation. The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians are suing the state over voter identification laws. In response, a federal judge told the state it must allow voters to fill out an affidavit to vote in the 2016 general election. Lawmakers argue these affidavits allow people to vote illegally by claiming they live where they don’t.
The parties involved in a voter discrimination lawsuit between two Native American tribes and state and county officials was settled for almost half of what the tribes’ lawyers requested, with Washoe County paying the most. The Pyramid Lake and Walker River Paiute tribes won a case in federal court against Washoe and Mineral counties and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office on Oct. 7 for early polling and Election Day voting sites on the reservations. The tribes’ lawyers initially requested $117,000 in costs, but the suit was eventually settled for $60,000. Washoe County is on the hook for $25,000 with the state’s split at $20,000 and Mineral County at $15,000.
Montana: Lawmaker argues special elections request is unfair to Native Americans | Great Falls Tribune
A Senate Bill that would let counties hold a presumptive special election by mail ballot came under criticism Monday by a lawmaker who feared it would not be fair to people who live on reservations who vote at satellite offices. Rep. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, D-Crow Agency, told members of the Senate State Administration Committee that the proposal known as Senate Bill 305 at the behest of the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders was another example of suppressing the Native American vote. She said tribes have undergone litigation with counties in order to get equal access to the polls through satellite offices. “I highly oppose it as it is a form of suppression in my district,” Stewart-Peregoy said, adding “this is another example of the government being forked-tongued.”
More people who speak Alaska Native languages but who have limited English proficiency will receive translated sample ballots and other election material. That’s due to changes the U.S. Census Bureau announced on Monday.
The Census Bureau expanded the number of areas and languages eligible for election material translation.
Indra Arriaga, who manages language assistance compliance for the state Division of Elections, said it’s important to ensure that people receive translated sample ballots and election outreach public service announcements in minority languages.
Confusion abounded in Navajo voting places in San Juan County, Utah, on Election Day, according to observers. The county overlaps the northern portion of the Navajo Nation and runs federal elections there. Navajo Nation attorney Maya Kane was in the county’s reservation town of Montezuma Creek, while Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission policy analyst Lauren Bernally was in Oljato, also on the reservation. The two saw malfunctioning voting machines and one polling place that couldn’t offer voters any way to cast a ballot for at least two and one half hours. Meanwhile, the county office, in Monticello, Utah, appears to have misinformed voters about polling locations. “I talked to voters who were very unhappy that their polling place ran out of ballots and had its only machine break down at the same time,” said Bernally, a tribal member. “Another voter called the county election office to find out where to go, only to be told to drive from Monument Valley to Mexican Hat and, when that was wrong, to double back to Monument Valley.” She stressed that this meant hours of driving and fuel costs.
Utah: Federal judge will not mandate San Juan County to make adjustments for Navajo voters in Utah | The Salt Lake Tribune
A federal judge denied a motion Friday that would have ordered San Juan County to take additional steps to ensure that Navajo voters have equal access to election polling sites. The Navajo Human Rights Commission and residents of the Navajo Nation in San Juan County filed a lawsuit in February, alleging the county had violated the federal Voting Rights Act by closing polling places and moving toward a mail-only voting system, hindering access to the ballot box. But for primary voting in June, the county opened three polling places on the reservation, saying it was bringing the sites closer to Navajos than they are to most white voters.
The Justice Department sided with two Nevada tribes’ interpretation of a key part of the U.S. Voting Rights Act and a judge said she will issue a ruling Friday in the native Paitues’ legal battle with state and county officials over minority access to the polls. U.S. District Judge Miranda Du listened to arguments during a daylong hearing Tuesday in Reno on whether to grant the tribes’ request for an emergency order establishing satellite voting sites on their Pyramid Lake and Walker River reservations in northern Nevada’s high desert. The tribes accuse Nevada’s Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, Washoe and Mineral counties of illegally denying tribe members voting access afforded to people in wealthier, mostly white neighborhoods. Members of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe living in Washoe County say they must travel 96 miles roundtrip to register to vote or to cast ballots in person in Sparks. Members of the Walker River Paiute Tribe in rural Mineral County say they have to go 70 miles roundtrip to Hawthorne. The lawsuit says that’s nearly twice as far as voters on Lake Tahoe’s affluent north shore would have to travel to vote if the county had not set up a satellite poll in upscale Incline Village.