Wyoming legislators make progress on redistricting plan

2011-10-21T23:40:00Z 2011-10-21T23:54:04Z Wyoming legislators make progress on redistricting plan

By JEREMY PELZER

Casper Star-Tribune

The Billings Gazette
October 21, 2011 11:40 pm  • 

CASPER, Wyo. — A Wyoming legislative panel approved a draft redistricting plan for most of the state on Friday, though debate will continue about boundaries for the eastern third of the state.

The draft boundaries, passed by the 13-member Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, would, among other things, put Dubois and Jeffery City in the same district and create a legislative district around Jackson that is almost entirely within the city limits.

But other areas, including Natrona County and Sheridan County, would see few significant changes in their electoral map under the draft plan.

Wyoming has to redraw legislative boundaries every 10 years following the U.S. Census, as populations increase in some areas and decrease in others.

The corporations committee has until the start of the Legislature’s budget session in mid-February to draw a final proposal.

There’s one last remaining piece of the redistricting puzzle left: how to divide eastern Wyoming.

Committee members will meet in Cheyenne on Dec. 4-6 to choose between two redistricting plans for the eastern part of the state.

The main difference between the two plans is whether Campbell County will get an extra state representative at the expense of other, smaller northeast Wyoming counties.

One plan, proposed by Tim Stubson, R-Casper, on Friday during the committee’s meeting in Casper, would give Campbell County five state representative districts — one more than the county currently has. The county increased in population by more than 14 percent — almost 13,000 people — from 2000 to 2010.

“(The plan) is a recognition that Campbell County has enough people in it to have five representatives,” Stubson said.

But state Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, has submitted an alternative plan that would keep Campbell County at four legislators.

Under Stubson’s plan, Driskill said, Campbell County’s additional legislator would be taken from a bloc of six small, comparatively poor eastern counties — Crook, Weston, Niobrara, Platte, Goshen and Converse. As a result, he said, even though Campbell County has fewer residents than those six counties, it would get more representation in the Legislature.

“That’s going to leave those six counties really, really at a very big disadvantage as far as raw representation of those counties,” Driskill said.

“The smallest and the weakest and the poorest shouldn’t be the ones that come out the loser in the fight at the end.”

Stubson’s and Driskill’s plans also would carve northern Laramie County in different ways. Stubson’s plan would lead to a district that covers northern Laramie County and southern Goshen County; Driskill’s proposal, on the other hand, would create a district combining northern Laramie County and southern Platte County.

On Friday, the corporations committee approved draft plans for legislative districts elsewhere in the state.

Several committee mem-bers said that while the new proposed district lines weren’t perfect, they met a number of requirements, including respecting county boundaries as much as possible and ensuring that “communities of interest” aren’t split into multiple legislative districts.

State Rep. Jim Roscoe, D-Wilson, lamented that his home district, House District 22, would, under the draft proposal, still extend from strongly conservative Pinedale to more liberal Wilson.

“I’ve been complaining about these extreme different points of view from one end of the district to the other,” Roscoe said. The draft plan, he said, “doesn’t do anything to correct the situation.”

The committee had previously set an unofficial deadline of November to submit a redistricting map to the full Legislature. Despite the delay, several members of the committee said they expect to have a final proposal by the start of session.

“We’re getting close to something I think is workable,” Stubson said.

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