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Utah ballot measure opposed by Navajos trails in early tally

FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2019, file photo, Jonathan Nez addresses a crowd after he was sworn in as president of the Navajo Nation in Fort Defiance, Ariz. Nez is calling on voters in a southeastern Utah county to reject a ballot proposition that could lead to expanding a three-member county commission that Native Americans took majority of last year. Nez said Tuesday, Oct. 29, in a statement that the proposition is the latest attempt to undermine the voice of Navajo voters in San Juan County. The county overlaps with the Navajo Nation. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah ballot proposition that has reignited a fierce dispute over Navajo voting rights was trailing Wednesday after the initial tally, but too many votes remained uncounted to make it final.

The measure would launch a one-year study to make changes to county government, including possibly expanding a three-member county commission that Navajos took control of during the 2018 election.

The proposition was trailing by 121 votes, with 650 ballots left to be counted, said San Juan County Deputy Clerk Aspen Draper. She said the next updated tally isn't expected until Friday at the earliest.

The measure divided the rural count that overlaps with the Navajo Nation.

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Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez was among those who opposed the measure. He urged voters to reject it, saying it would undermine the voice of Navajo voters.

James Adakai, county Democratic Party chairman and Navajo Nation chapter president, called it a blatant ploy by white Republicans to take back control of the commission. He questioned why it was necessary to change the size of the commission that was fine for years, until Navajos won control in last year's election.

The man behind the proposition, Blanding Mayor Joe Lyman, said he's advocated for making a five-member commission long before the 2018 election results. He argued that a five-member commission would spread the workload and provide a more represented voice to residents by creating smaller districts.

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