A lawsuit announced this week in Salt Lake City focuses on a contested county commission seat, newly redrawn voting districts and a Navajo candidate well known for his opposition to shrinking the Bears Ears National Monument.
Willie Grayeyes is a prominent member of the Navajo Nation in San Juan County, Utah. He was running for county commission in a district that was redrawn last December and now favors the Navajo community.
But last month, he was kicked off this November’s ballot. Officials claim he actually lives across the border in Arizona.
Steve Boos is Grayeyes’ attorney. He said what used to be a majority white district is now made up of 65 percent Native Americans who are voting age, and that Grayeyes’ removal from the ballot is racially motivated.
"He is now running in a district where it's a much fairer district in terms of the population distribution and there’s a reasonable likelihood that if there’s a large enough Navajo turnout, he could be elected," Boos said.
Boos says Grayeyes family are long time residents of the region which straddles the Utah-Arizona border and he says Grayeyes has voted in local Utah elections for decades.
Defendants in the case including the county clerk declined to comment.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.