The U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday that its sending officials to monitor Tuesday’s election in San Juan County, following similar election poll-watching efforts in 2016.
The decision to send observers comes on the eve of a special election in San Juan County, which could mark a significant political shift from Republican to Democratic control.
The southeast corner of Utah is one of 35 jurisdictions in 19 states where attorneys with the department’s Civil Rights Division will be monitoring elections for compliance with voting rights laws. The Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office will also be sending an official to San Juan County on election day.
San Juan County, which includes part of the Navajo Nation, has a history of election complaints. During the 2018 primary, the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office, which oversees state elections, received reports that polling locations had long lines, were overcrowded and that voters were asked who they voted for by individuals outside polling places.
A 2016 decision by a federal judge ordered the district boundaries to be redrawn to more evenly represent the votes of Navajo residents. The new San Juan County Commission boundaries favor Navajo candidates in two out of three commission seats. According to voter outreach groups, Navajo residents tend to vote Democratic or Independent.
A DOJ official speaking on background would not provide specific details about why San Juan County was singled out in Utah, citing numerous factors when choosing where to deploy monitors.
“The Division is also continuing its outreach to jurisdictions that are required to provide bilingual election materials and assistance at the polls, pursuant to the Voting Rights Act,” the official said in a statement.
The Justice Department Civil Rights Division will also be available to address voting complaints on election day by phone at 800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767.