CHEYENNE — A legislative committee responsible for drafting a legislative redistricting plan now has five proposals to consider.
Four are local plans for Natrona, Teton, Laramie and Sweetwater counties, sponsored by local legislators. The fifth is the framework for a statewide plan that bases districts on natural boundaries, namely county borders.
Unlike the local plans, it would give local elected officials — county commissioners and county clerks — the job of drawing the boundaries for the districts within each county.
The author of the statewide plan, Rep. Hans Hunt, a 23-year-old Republican freshman legislator, student and rancher from Newcastle, said reaction so far has been positive.
People in his House district and adjacent areas, he said, like the plan because it offers a “common sense” approach by recognizing county boundaries as well as “communities of interest.”
At the same time it adheres to the one-man, one-vote principle of representation.
“It gives some local control as well,” Hunt said in an interview, “instead of saying, ‘This is the plan.’”
The plan also helps people to know what county their legislators live in. Hunt said some residents do not always know the location by House district numbers.
The idea for the statewide plan, he added, came from Crook County Attorney Joe Baron.
The Legislature’s Joint Interim Committee on Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions voted earlier to maintain a 30-member Senate and 60-member House in single-member districts.
The ideal House district, given the new population figures, would include 18,788 residents. The ideal Senate district would include half that number, or 9,394.
Although the state grew by nearly 70,000 people since the last census in 2000, the increase was not proportionate statewide. Some counties, including Campbell and Sublette, experienced large population spurts, while others including Hot Springs, Carbon and Goshen counties suffered double-digit population losses.
A representative of the Wyoming League of Women Voters, Marguerite Herman of Cheyenne, said Hunt’s plan offers an “interesting concept.”
“He obviously thinks it is important to have local officials draw the lines,” she said. “But I don’t know if there’s any greater wisdom on the local level than there is on the state level.”
She said the committee and the Legislature are prepared to consider local recommendations, but it is the job of the legislators rather than local officials to draw the district lines.
“They have the big picture and have in mind all the caveats and the legal requirements, and in the end they are responsible for the plan that is put in place,” Herman said. “They have to defend it.”
The corporations committee members, meanwhile, will hold their final public meeting on Aug. 15 in Torrington. The following day, the committee will meet in Cheyenne to look at all the plans and comments gathered at the series of statewide meetings, said Rep. Pete Illoway, R-Cheyenne, the committee co-chairman.
Illoway said he and co-chairman Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, have bent over backward to say, “We’re listening to people.”
He noted that the committee 10 years ago started its redistricting plan in southeast Wyoming.
“This time we’re trying to be a little more open,” Illoway added.
Hunt said the county clerks and county commissioners in Crook, Weston and Niobrara counties support his plan. The county clerks in those counties like it because it would mean less trouble in election balloting.
The three sets of county commissioners support it, he said, because they like to have their counties in one district rather than split between two districts.
An example of how Hunt’s plan would work is in his own House District 2 that now includes the southern half of Weston County, all of Niobrara County and pieces of eastern Converse and Goshen counties.
The district deviates from the ideal population by a minus 12.45 percent.
Hunt’s plan is to include all of Weston and Niobrara counties in House District 2. The new district would have 3 percent more population than the ideal, well within the 5 percent deviation allowed.
In a news release announcing his plan, Hunt said he started with the counties that are “naturals,” meaning they fit the population requirements within their own boundaries or in combination with a second county, like the proposed Weston-Niobrara district.
Another natural county pairing in the plan is Laramie County and Goshen County.
Stand-alone counties includes Albany, Lincoln, Natrona, Park and Sheridan counties.
Hunt likened the redistricting task to solving a sudoku puzzle.