Press Release: San Juan County Officials Accused of Mistreating Political Opponent



Salt Lake City, UT – Today, Democratic candidate for the San Juan County Commission Willie Grayeyes filed suit in response to his removal from the November ballot by the county clerk. The lead defendant is  Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, in his capacity as chief elections officer. Mr. Grayeyes’s complaint claims the state and county violated his constitutional rights to appear on the ballot as a candidate and to vote in the same election. Also named as a plaintiff in the complaint is Terry Whitehat, who claims that his right to vote in the election for his candidate of choice–Mr. Grayeyes–was unconstitutionally restricted by the State of Utah and San Juan County.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs include Steven Boos, Eric Swenson, Alan Smith, Maya Kane, and Alliance for a Better Utah board member, David Irvine.

Willie Grayeyes made the ballot without issue but was subsequently removed in May, following accusations by a political opponent that he does not live in Utah.

“The absurd and hypocritical treatment of Mr. Grayeyes is appalling and unbecoming of elected government officials and government employees,” said Josh Kanter, Alliance for a Better Utah founder and board chair. “San Juan County officials have a history of mistreating and disrespecting members of the Navajo Nation, from gerrymandered districts that restrict the members’ rights to fair representation, to the efforts to rescind Bears Ears–a sacred monument for a number of Native American nations. Now, we see the same animosity in the seemingly politically motivated removal of Mr. Grayeyes from the ballot. It is no secret that Mr. Grayeyes is an outspoken advocate for many issues impacting his community in San Juan County, and these attempts to keep him from running for office by those who stand to lose politically is a clear abuse of power.

“We will follow this lawsuit closely and hope it results not only in the reinstatement of Mr. Grayeyes on the November ballot, but also in increased accountability for government officials, more transparent government processes, and fair play for all in the beautiful and diverse San Juan County.”

This lawsuit comes during the first election following a federal court ruling San Juan County must redraw its racially gerrymandered districts. The new districts are likely to give more proportional representation to the large Navajo population and dilute the power of the area’s traditional political establishment.

Mr. Grayeyes is the chair of the Utah Dine Bikeyah, a nonprofit Native American-led organization working to conserve cultural lands. In this capacity, Mr. Grayeyes has been at the forefront of the movement to protect Bears Ears National Monument. His possible election to the county commission could impact the current commission’s efforts to stop a lawsuit against the Trump administration regarding the reversal of the Bears Ears designation.

The complaint in its entirety can be found here.


Alliance for a Better Utah is a good government advocacy and watchdog organization based in Salt Lake City. The organization works to improve the lives of all Utahns by ensuring balance, transparency, and accountability in Utah politics, policy, and government. More information at www.betterutah.org.

Scroll to Top