County asks for stay on full slate of 2018 elections

As part of an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling to restructure voting districts in the county, San Juan County filed a request on January 19 to delay the full slate of elections that were ordered to take place this year.
If the request is approved, there would be two Commission seats and two school board seats to be determined in 2018, rather than all three Commission seats and all five school board seats.
Because filing dates for the 2018 election are upcoming, the county requested an expedited consideration of the motion.
A recent ruling by Federal Judge Robert Shelby vacated all of the County Commission and School Board offices and ordered that elections be held for all seats in 2018. San Juan County would then resume staggered elections in 2020.
In 2016, voters elected five county residents to four-year terms in office, including Commissioner Bruce Adams and school board members Lorie Maughan, Merri Shumway and Steve Black.
Under Judge Shelby’s decision, the positions they were elected to fill would be on the ballot again just two years into their terms of office.
Attorneys for San Juan County argue that the elected officials should conclude their term in office before the positions are again put on the ballot.
They argue, “…if the Court proceeds with its plan to remove them from office by holding a Special Election in November of 2018, they will not only have been denied due process, but they will also suffer irreparable injury, especially if they are not re-elected to the seats now held by them.
“The injury is irreparable because, should the County prevail on this appeal, there is no way to return these individuals to their respective offices short of being elected in some future election.”
Since Judge Shelby’s ruling instructs the county to resume staggered elections in 2020, the positions are likely to be on the ballot three times in a four-year period: in 2016, 2018, and again in 2020.
Judge Shelby has ruled that the voting districts used in the 2016 election were unconstitutional. The county argues that the officials “were selected by the voters of San Juan County and, without any evidence showing that their election to office was due to what the Court has determined was an unconstitutional election plan, they should not be removed from office.”
Judge Shelby’s ruling redrew all eight voting districts. The new boundaries create a Native American majority in two of the three Commission districts and three of the five school board districts.

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