/ Modified feb 26, 2018 9:51 a.m.

Navajos Settle Voting Rights Lawsuit

Settlement requires accessible polling places and language assistance.

navajo nation seal Great seal of the Navajo Nation.
Navajo Nation (navajo-nsn.gov)


Navajos who once worried they’d have to drive hours to cast their ballots in Utah said a new settlement is a step forward.

The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission filed suit in 2016 over San Juan County’s decision to switch to a vote-by-mail system.

The American Civil Liberties Union Utah legal director John Mejia said the settlement requires tribal accessible polling places and Navajo-language assistance.

“For about a month before any election, San Juan County will be opening three satellite offices on the Navajo Nation, where voters will be able to get in-person voting assistance that would include language assistance,” Mejia said.

About 40 percent of the residents in San Juan County speak Navajo, and 18 percent don’t speak English well, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Southern Utah’s San Juan County officials said they’re committed to fair elections and made the changes without going to court, which they say would have been a waste of taxpayer money. They said the 2014 switch to voting by mail increased voter turnout by allowing Navajos who work out of town or go away to college or the military to cast ballots.

Similar legal clashes among tribes have been waged recently in Nevada, Alaska and the Dakotas.

Fronteras Desk
This story is from the Fronteras Desk, a collaboration of Southwestern public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Fronteras Desk.
By posting comments, you agree to our
AZPM encourages comments, but comments that contain profanity, unrelated information, threats, libel, defamatory statements, obscenities, pornography or that violate the law are not allowed. Comments that promote commercial products or services are not allowed. Comments in violation of this policy will be removed. Continued posting of comments that violate this policy will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.
Arizona Public Media broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents. Arizona Public Media and AZPM are registered trademarks of the Arizona Board of Regents.
The University of Arizona