Press Release: Federal judge orders San Juan County to put Utah Navajo activist Willie Grayeyes back on the ballot

A federal judge has ruled that San Juan County officials improperly invalidated the candidacy of Willie Grayeyes, a Navajo Democrat running for County Commission.

After a hearing Tuesday in Moab, Grayeyes’ attorney, Steven Boos, said U.S. District Judge David Nuffer restored the candidate’s voting rights and ordered his name back onto the November ballot. Grayeyes’ name had been stripped from the ballot by county officials who said he didn’t reside in the county.

“He’s glad to get past this part of it because he would like to help guide the county in a direction where the county is solving problems for all the citizens of the county,” Boos told The Salt Lake Tribune.

San Juan County Administrator Kelly Pehrson declined to speak with The Tribune about the judge’s ruling.

Grayeyes, the Democratic nominee and a leading activist in the successful Bears Ears monument campaign, sued San Juan Countyafter he was removed from the ballot by County Clerk John David Nielson, who declared that the candidate did not live in Utah.

Grayeyes insisted that he resided at Paiute Mesa, on the Utah part of the Navajo Reservation near the Arizona line, and records show that he has voted in San Juan elections for the past 20 years.

Navajo Nation officials condemned Nielson’s handling of an investigation into Grayeyes’ residency.

“It appears that Mr. Nielson backdated official county documents in an attempt to strip Willie Grayeyes of his candidacy. It’s clear that Nielson made egregious, if not purposeful, errors in disqualifying Mr. Willie Grayeyes as a candidate,” Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, said.

This article was originally published in the Salt Lake Tribune. If you would like to view the full article, click here.
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