House Democrat Calls for Accountability for Continued Native American Voter Suppression 

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: 
September 6, 2018

Contact:         
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov 

House Democrat Calls for Accountability for Continued Native American Voter Suppression

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Representative Mark Wheatley (D-District 35) called for Utah elections officials and the State Attorney General to help San Juan County take urgent action to fix voter location inconsistencies before the November General Election.  Rep. Wheatley also asked elections officials to hold San Juan County Clerk officials accountable for actions that may continue to undermine Native American participation in elections. 

During Wednesday’s Native American Legislative Liaison Committee legislators learned that much more progress is needed to ensure that Navajo citizens’ voting rights will be protected and respected. 

According to a report prepared by the Navajo Nation Human rights Commission (NNHRC) and the Rural Utah Project (RUP) many Navajo voters are not accurately identified as living at the residential coordinates as assigned by the county.  The groups reported that in some assessed precincts about 80 to 95 percent of voters are not placed in their correct residential coordinates, and about 25 percent on average of Navajo voters are not placed in the correct precincts. 

“This effectively amounts to continued voter suppression,” said Rep. Mark Wheatley.  “It’s the responsibility of San Juan County to make sure everyone is counted. I want to make sure we are holding those responsible accountable for their actions.”

Last year a federal district court judge ordered San Juan County to draw new district boundaries after determining illegal racial gerrymandering had taken place.  Then, earlier this year San Juan County Clerk John David Nielson admitted to falsifying a government document regarding a claim that Navajo candidate Willie Grayeyes was ineligible to run for a county commission seat because he did not live in Utah.  A federal judge has since ordered San Juan County to place Mr. Grayeyes back on the ballot.

“It seems evident that Mr. Grayeyes’ rights have been violated,” added Rep. Wheatley. “It’s understandable that the Navajo community has lost confidence and trust with the San Juan County Clerk/Auditor’s office. At the same time, San Juan County officials claim they lack sufficient resources to accurately place many of its Native American residents.  As a state we need to be assisting San Juan County and Native American groups with resources to reconcile this situation.  For far too long our Native American brothers and sisters have had their voices suppressed.”  

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