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The Associated Press

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — A state district judge has ordered the city to implement a ward system approved by voters but rejected by the City Council.

Second District Judge Jeffrey A. Donnell ruled the mayor must declare the seven-ward system adopted.

“This is a real victory for Laramie,” said Will Worthey, spokesman for the Ward System Committee, the driving force behind the ballot issue. “Now we can move forward with implementing a ward system and obtaining true neighborhood representation for Laramie’s citizens.”

Last November, 44 percent of Laramie voters supported a seven-ward system and 18 percent endorsed a nine-ward system. City officials had claimed that because neither proposal gained a majority, the issue failed.

But proponents of a ward system said the total votes cast on the two ward systems added up to 62 percent, showing overall support for a ward system.

Currently, all nine council members are elected at-large, meaning all could conceivably be elected from the same neighborhood.

The new system would divide Laramie into seven areas, or wards, with each having one representative on the council. Two members would still be elected at-large.

Donnell on Monday dismissed the council’s argument that the law was hopelessly confusing and unconstitutional.

City Manager Harry LaBonde declined comment on the ruling but said the next move is up to the council to decide if it wants to appeal.

“If they choose not to appeal then we will immediately begin the meetings with that (ward) committee plus the council that will then start to draw up the ward boundaries,” he said.

The city has 30 days to decide whether to appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

The boundaries have to be drawn by May 2002, because the deadline for filing to run for the council is the first week of June 2002.

If no appeal is made, the council and committee will study census data to determine where to draw boundaries. The group will then decide which wards or at-large seats will be contested in the next election because only four councilors’ terms expire in 2002.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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