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Navajo man leads commission race
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Navajo man leading county race in Utah after ballot fight

In this Oct. 24, 2018, photo, Democratic county commission candidate Willie Grayeyes, left, speaks to a group while Kenneth Maryboy, a Navajo who is running unopposed for another seat on the commission, looks on in White Mesa, Utah. Grayeyes is running in a new, 65-percent Navajo district on local issues like new school buses and better road maintenance. If Grayeyes wins, the three-person commission could be majority Navajo for the first time. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Navajo man is winning a Utah county commission race where he fought get on the ballot for the first general election after a judge ruled that local voting districts were illegally drawn along racial lines.

Votes counted as of Thursday show Democrat Willie Grayeyes is leading with 55 percent of the vote over Republican Kelly Laws.

A Grayeyes victory would make the San Juan County Commission majority-Navajo for the first time.

Grayeyes has said that he wants to help address disparities faced by Native Americans in the southeastern Utah county that overlaps with the Navajo Nation.

While county leaders acknowledge those issues, they say it’s wrong to lay the blame on the county when tribal and federal governments also play a large role in Navajo Nation services.

Previous reporting from KSL.com noted the challenges Utah’s Navajo people have faced in voting in past elections. Because many homes do not have traditional street addresses, and because there are few jobs on the reservation, many native people travel for work. Navajos launched a legal challenge after much of Utah switched to a voting-by-mail system, saying it made it harder for voters on the reservation to receive their ballots.