Despite the fact that his primary residence is in Tuba City, Arizona, Grayeyes claims his home is in Utah because his umbilical cord is buried at the location of his birth on Paiute Mesa on the the Navajo Reservation.
By Marjorie Haun
A “racial gerrymandering” controversy took a bizarre twist when on July 7 Federal Judge David Nuffer reversed a lower court’s decision, allowing Willie Grayeyes, a resident of Tuba City, Arizona, to run for Commissioner in San Juan County, Utah.
In May, the County established that Grayeyes does not live in the district (or the State of Utah) in which he had declared his candidacy and was therefore ineligible to be on the ballot.The Deseret News reported:
Clerk John David Nielson, in a May 4 letter to Grayeyes, said components of the investigation point to protracted absences from his claimed residency and information from Grayeyes’ own sister that he actually lives in Tuba City, Arizona.
“All the other witnesses, particularly the witnesses who live in Navajo Mountain and Paiute Mesa (including your sister Rose) stated that you do not live in the region, had not lived there for years and that you were living in Tuba City, Arizona,” the letter stated. “It is apparently common knowledge that you do not live in the area and in fact reside in Tuba City.”
San Juan County Clerk, David Nielson’s determination of ineligibility spurred a lawsuit by Grayeyes in which Nielson, and Lt. Governor Spencer Cox were named as defendants. The lawsuit seems to imply that the requirement for candidates to live in the state and district they are running to represent are “unconstitutionally restrictive.” On June 26 the San Juan Record reported:
Willie Grayeyes and Terry Whitehat recently filed an action against Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, San Juan County Clerk John David Nielsen, San Juan County Attorney Kendall Laws, San Juan County Sheriff’s Deputy Colby Turk, and county resident Wendy Black.
The basis of the lawsuit is that Grayeyes was denied access to the ballot when he was removed as a candidate for elected office. The filing says that “the qualifications to become a candidate for commissioner are unconstitutionally restrictive,” and that Nielson “disenfranchised Grayeyes through an unconstitutional application of the voter registration requirements.”
Despite the fact that his primary residence is in Tuba City, Arizona, Grayeyes claims his home is in Utah because his umbilical cord is buried at the location of his birth on Paiute Mesa near Navajo Mountain. The claim is both unconventional and illegal, according to Utah’s election laws. Nevertheless, Federal Judge David Nuffer is saying that Grayeyes’ out-of-state residency should have no bearing on his candidacy. On August 7, the San Juan Record reported:
In a hearing held in Moab before the federal judge, Nuffer placed Grayeyes back on the ballot. Nuffer suggested that any legal questions regarding residency will be delayed until after the election.
As shocking and absurd as Nuffer’s decision may seem, it’s par for the course in San Juan County where strange alliances between extreme environmental special interests, Navajo activists, and progressive federal judges have been formed. Lightning rod issues, including the establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) overreach on public lands and RS-2477 roads–which are under county, not federal jurisdiction, have pitted these alliances against San Juan County residents and local elected officials. Willie Grayeyes works closely with Dine’ Bikeyah, an environmentalist group which aggressively lobbied the Obama Administration for the Bears Ears Monument. President Trump’s 2017 revisions reducing its area and splitting it into two smaller monuments intensified the political ground wars in southeastern Utah, and outside special interests have pulled out all the stops in efforts to overtake local government. See Progressive outdoor rec industry running fake Republicans in Utah
Judge Nuffer, who handles federal cases in southeastern Utah, is historically sympathetic to Utah’s environmentalist groups, and appears to have a conflict of interest when taking cases in which environmentalists, such as Willie Grayeyes, are parties. The Petroglyph reported in June of 2016:
The Director of Citizens for Dixie’s Future until 2013, was Christi Wedig, who then left to work for the Glen Canyon Institute. Christi Wedig is the daughter of Federal Judge David Nuffer. It was Judge Nuffer who sentenced Commissioner Lyman and Monte Wells in the Recapture Canyon case, and ordered them to pay $96,000.00 in restitution for alleged damages to the trail. Dine Bikeyah and Friends of Cedar Mesa are now advocating for the controversial designation of the Bears Ears region as a national monument, and they too aided in the prosecution of Commissioner Lyman and The Petroglyph owner Monte Wells.
The collusion between environmentalists, federal agencies and officers of the court in Utah is well established, but Nuffer is setting a frightening precedent with his assertion that a candidate’s state and district of residency can be overlooked if there are other factors present. That would be Willie Grayeyes’ race in this case. Its safe to say that if this were a Republican non-native from out of state running in the same district, he or she would be summarily banned from the ballot forever and taken to the proverbial woodshed in the media. This appears to be an unconstitutional and dangerous form of racism on the part of Nuffer and Grayeyes’ supporters.
On May 27, The Petroglyph published a piece on the repercussions of this issue. It reads in part:
This issue Grayeyes created addresses the real problem we are facing in San Juan County thanks to left wing radicals and the federal courts. Years of federal overreach and meddling has made Native Americans and non Natives in the county slaves to the government and unwillingly too each other…
This injustice is not only a reservation issue because it affects all non-reservation citizens as well. This is done by forcing non-reservation citizens to fund reservation schools, roads, and other services on the reservation which is a sovereign nation.
It is unknown at this time whether or not San Juan County will appeal Judge Nuffer’s decision.
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