Monday, June 6, 2011

First Redistricting Public Meeting Held in Rock Springs

The first in a serious of redistricting meetings was held in Rock Springs on May 25 in City Council Chambers. The crowd of about 40 was a mixed one including legislative staff, county clerks, politicians, elected officials and a sprinkling of citizens. The legislative staff presented a short power- point on redistricting fundamentals and also on the use of the legislative website. Testimony was heard on the lack of community of interest representation in some Rock Springs districts. Chairman Cale Case did an excellent job of moderating the program and assuring that all who wanted to be heard by the committee were given time to do so.

It becomes clear in listening to testimony how difficult redistricting is, as speakers all have specific critiques of their districts and how they are drawn. One person testifies that the boundary is drawn down the middle of the street, with their neighbors across the road being in a different district. County Clerks are concerned that precinct and district changes that will affect voting procedures in their counties.

In addition, politics come into play quickly as voting districts are redrawn. A group from Teton County offered draft changes for areas in their part of the state, and resentment of the affects of those changes were already clear.

The reality remains that as a result of the significant changes in many counties, Wyoming must redistrict in order to meet the criteria of equity of populations in each district. The ideal House district will be 9,394 (+ or – 5%) and the Senate district will be 18,788 (+ or – 5%). The decision has been made by the committee that Wyoming will continue with 30 Senate seats and 60 House seats, with 2 house seats “nested” in each Senate district.

Here are the seven redistricting principles adopted by the committee:

1. Election districts should be contiguous, compact, and reflect a community of interest:
2. Population of election districts should be substantially equal, with the range of deviation not to exceed 10%;
3. To the greatest extent possible, in establishing election districts:
a. County boundaries should be followed;
b. The majority of the population of each county should be in one district;
c. Census blocks should be followed.
4. The plan should avoid diluting voting power of minorities in violation of the Voting Rights Act;
5. The House shall have 60 seats and the Senate shall have 30 seats;
6. Consideration should be given to two (2) contiguous House districts in each Senate district; and
7. Significant geographical features should be considered in establishing districts.

To learn more about redistricting, please visit the ACLU's Redistricting Q&A page.