DOUGLAS — Officials and residents from eastern Wyoming laid out their plans Monday to redraw state legislative districts, urging the state’s redistricting committee not to rope poor, rural counties in with their wealthier, more populous neighbors.
But several committee members voiced skepticism, if not outright opposition, to a redistricting plan by a Weston County lawmaker, saying it would preserve northeast Wyoming districts at the cost of splitting counties and population centers elsewhere in the state.
Wyoming has to redraw legislative boundaries every 10 years, as populations rise in some areas and fall in others. The 13-member Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee has set an unofficial deadline of November to submit a redistricting map to the full Legislature, which will vote during next year’s budget session on a final plan.
Two statewide redistricting proposals have been drafted so far, as well as nine local plans for specific counties or regions of the state.
It’s not just as simple as redrawing lines on a map. Lawmakers have to adjust to population shifts while at the same time respecting county boundaries as much as possible and ensuring that “communities of interest” aren’t split into multiple legislative districts.
Under a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court decision, each legislative district has to have a population within 10 percent of the ideal — which in this case is 18,788 people per Senate district and 9,394 per House district.
Before an audience almost entirely composed of county clerks, state legislators and local officials at the Wyoming State Fairgrounds, state Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Newcastle, and his father Tracy laid out one of the two statewide plans to the redistricting committee.
Unlike the local plans, Hunt’s plan would give local elected officials — county commissioners and county clerks — the job of drawing the boundaries for the districts within each county.
Tracy Hunt, a former Weston County commissioner, said that if the local plans for Laramie, Albany, Natrona, Sheridan and Johnson counties are approved, lawmakers can’t draw conforming districts for eastern Wyoming.
“Something has to give,” he said.
Several lawmakers and county officials from northeastern Wyoming also said they feared that if their rural, poorer counties were shoved together with richer, more populous areas in Campbell County, voters in the latter area would dominate that district.
“You move us into these bigger counties, and I guarantee we will get eaten alive,” state Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said.
However, several redistricting committee members waved off the Hunts’ assertions and demanded they give specific details about population levels for each district.
“Show us it’ll work,” state Rep. Alan Jaggi, R-Lyman, said.
Cheyenne lawmakers also blasted the Hunts, saying they were worried the plan the Hunts are pushing would create a district that pairs most of rural western Laramie County with urban neighborhoods on the west side of Cheyenne.
Monday’s meeting was the 12th the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee has held on redistricting. The committee was scheduled to hold its final regional redistricting meeting Monday afternoon in Sheridan; committee members will likely meet again within the next few weeks to vote on a plan to submit to the full Legislature.