Monday, September 26, 2011

Redistricting in Northeastern Wyoming

The corporations committee meeting held in the state fair cafeteria in Douglas on September 19th was well-attended with a majority of the audience county clerks, local officials and a few interested voters. The meeting began, as usual, with an explanation of the redistricting process and the use of the Wyoming legislative redistricting web site.

A local county clerk testified that it is difficult

keep Glen Rock and Converse whole as a result of a huge land mass and sparse population. Lucille Taylor of Platte and Goshen County is trying to keep from losing the lone representative in those counties.

A revised county clerks plan was presented for eastern Wyoming.

Representative Hunt explained his plan for the region. Representative Hunt added that he believes local people are the most qualified to put together specifics in the counties as they know the areas and communities of interest best.

Chairman Illoway voiced his concern that some of the plans emasculate Laramie County by dividing the county. Taking a “little bit” of land or population can make a huge difference in a county.

Representative Jaggi advised Representative Hunt that his plan is not viable without specific numbers to show the committee the plan will work.

Debbi Lathrop stated that seven of the eastern Wyoming County Clerks worked together to map a revised plan for eastern Wyoming. The Goshen County Clerk was not present at the meeting. This plan was not sponsored by any legislator or the clerks association.

Tracy Hunt, Representatiave Hunt’s father and former Crook County Commissioner talked at length about the Hunt plan. He suggested that the legislators are making the process difficult to protect peoples seats and that the process is simple and if Hunt’s plan is followed every County can have a district. The Constitution says the county boundaries should be respected and that the seats should be divided among counties by population. Mr. Hunt testified that all the committee has to do is follow Hunt’s plan and they can be done today. He suggested that Laramie County must realize that it has to contribute population to the plan to be fair. Representative Byrd says the Hunt plan does not provide for equal representation for all voters. He also took exception to the statement that this is a simple task.

Representative Patton pointed out that precincts are set by county clerks and not by legislature.

Senator Hines presented an alternative proposal for consideration.

Debbi Lathrop explains that 10 years ago the clerks worked with census bureau to establish census blocks. Precinct lines are the very last lines to be drawn and will come last after legislator has done redistricting.

There is an emphasis on respecting counties boundaries and all counties continue to want to remain whole. Given the population shifts in state, that is an extremely difficult problem.

Senator Driscoll says northeastern corner is a community of interest in terms of rural interests and they don’t want to be moved into bigger counties as they don’t have the same interests. He endorses county clerk’s plan that leaves counties intact. It is extremely important that poor rural counties are left intact so they have representation. He encourages the committee to leave the north area as is.

A County Commissioner from Weston County says Newcastle has little in common with Gillette as they are a very poor county and have little in common with such a rich county. Their needs would be ignored.

The tone of the meeting was somewhat more antagonistic than past meetings but the themes continue to be that all counties want to remain whole, they don’t want to lose representation and they don’t want change.