In this rural redrock town where buttes form the boundaries and windmills stand like a picket fence on the horizon, the largely Republican – and primarily white – residents are angry and resentful and frustrated. For more than three decades, they’ve been the dominant political party in this remote desert corner of Utah. For the first time, they’re likely to be overthrown. “I feel like we’ve been disenfranchised,” said Robert Turk, 57. It was the shared sentiment Thursday at the first GOP convention in San Juan County since a federal judge redrew the boundaries to give Navajos, who tend to affiliate as Democrats, a significant majority of voters in two of three commission districts and three of five school board seats. The decision was meant to reverse the historic political domination by whites over American Indians.
But it has roiled Monticello and Blanding, the two larger towns here that each has more than 75 percent Anglo populations, where American flags wave from almost every porch, pickup trucks sit in most driveways and pretty much anyone who’s not a tourist wears cowboy boots. The districts, they said, are now unfairly based on race and party.
… The county, overall, is at least 50 percent American Indian and 47 percent white, according to the most recent census data. In January 2012, the Navajo Nation filed suit armed with those population numbers, alleging that San Juan violated the Voting Rights Act by ensuring that non-Indian voters held majorities on the commission and nonpartisan school board — the two most powerful government bodies here.
Judge Shelby ordered the seats be redrawn. He ultimately approved plans in December 2017 — designed by a University of California, Irvine, professor — where District 1 has an American Indian population of 11.1 percent, District 2 at 65.6 percent and District 3 at 79.9 percent. Before, just one had a Navajo majority.