Thursday, October 27, 2011

Where to Draw the Line? Redistricting Revisted

On October 21st the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee held a public hearing on the redistricting plans that have been offered over a summer of public meetings across the state. It was clear during the meeting that the long and difficult process was beginning to take its toll on committee members as tempers and patience were sometimes short. This process is complicated and one that ensures that some people will be unhappy with the outcome. Each area that has presented a plan wants their area intact and basically unchanged. Most areas believe that they are unique and different from their neighbors.

Representation Stubson (HD56) presented a plan to the committee based on the idea that Campbell County should receive another representative due to its recent growth. “Nobody gets everything they want but everyone gets something.” (Referring to his plan) Rep. Stubson said he has not consulted with other representatives in the area so there may be some disagreement with his plan. Senator Scott was concerned that Goshen County is “carved up” in this plan and asks if that could be fixed in any way. There is not a lot of ability to change given the current population numbers.

Senator Driskill (SD1) presented a regional plan for Northeastern Wyoming. Senator Driskill said that they had worked very hard to keep towns and rural areas contiguous. He did admit that the plan had some problems that would need fixing. A Sublette County Commissioner asked the committee to keep in mind the plans that most benefit the whole state.

Senator Scott made a motion to direct the Legislative Service Office (LSO) to draft legislation to accept the following plans: Laramie County – Representative Byrd; Albany County – Representative Connolly; Natrona County – County Clerks; Big Horn Basin – County Clerks; Fremont County – County Clerks; Southwestern Wyoming – Martin-Cooper; Sheridan/Johnson - County Clerks.

The two regions that are seemingly a continuing problem are Southeastern and Northwestern Wyoming. There was a great deal of discussion on the Martin-Cooper plan from the committee and the audience. The Teton County Clerk stated that HD22 in Teton County has been in dispute since the last redistricting and the Martin-Cooper plan will make current disenfranchisement of Dubois worse.

Senator Scott advised that because of federal regulations that certain standards and criteria must been met and the committee only had the choice of the “least evil” options.

Senator Case encouraged officials, LSO and county clerks to get together and examine options and come back to committee with refinements in December. The staff was directed to prepare two working proposals from Senator Scott’s motions. The proposals and maps should be on the Legislative Redistricting website within the next two weeks. The next committee meeting is scheduled for December 5 and 6th in Cheyenne.