Redistricting may pose challenge for Wyoming lawmakers

Census population figures could show major shifts in Wyo counties
2010-11-10T01:45:00Z Redistricting may pose challenge for Wyoming lawmakersBy JOAN BARRON - Star-Tribune capital bureau Casper Star-Tribune Online

CHEYENNE -- Significant population shifts in some counties over the past decade will mean difficult mathematical problems for legislators when they draw new district lines early next year.

Some changes could be drastic if the population estimates for counties on July 1, 2009 hold when final census figures come out in 2011.

The 2009 estimates show Campbell County with a 30 percent increase in population from the 2000 census and Sublette County with growth of 48 percent.

At the other end, Hot Springs County lost 6 percent of its population while neighboring Washakie County was down 4.6 percent.

Members of the Joint Interim Committee on Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions examined the population estimates and what they could mean in drawing new district lines for the Legislature in the 2012 session.

The Legislature last year appropriated $285,000 for software and regional meetings held by lawmakers in communities as it did 10 years ago.

Rep. Pete Illoway, R-Cheyenne, the chairman of the House corporations committee, said he doesn't believe the 2009 census figures are accurate today, given the out-migration of the minerals industry.

Illoway said officials 10 years ago thought Laramie County School District 2 in eastern Laramie County had grown enough to have one state representative.

But final population figures didn't bear out that expectation and that is why eastern Laramie County shares a district with part of Cheyenne.

Illoway also pointed out that Wyoming's return rate on census questionnaires was 71 percent.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said if a district loses population, its boundaries must be expanded.

This could be problem he said, with Senate District 1 in northeast Wyoming, a large district that includes Crook, Weston and parts of Niobrara and Platte Counties.

That district's population is about 6 percent below the desired ratio and will need to be expanded substantially -- possibly all the way to the Big Horn Basin, Case said.

Case, a member of the committee when it handled redistricting 10 years ago, said the job was fairly simple then. Since then, there have been some big changes.

"To throw more goop into this, one solution is to add new districts," Case said.

But he added that the Legislature appears to be "hard-wired" now to stick to 30 Senate and 60 House seats, although at one time the House had 64 members..

Sen.Charles Scott, R-Casper, said that keeping three Senate districts in the Big Horn Basin will be a problem, given that only one district grew slightly.

Illoway said he doesn't believe the job will be as daunting as the 2009 population figures suggest.

Contact capital bureau reporter Joan Barron at (307) 632-1244 or joan.barron@tribcom

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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