By DAVE ROBATCEK
Wyoming’s growing and shifting population has necessitated a change in the boundaries of legislative districts and the committee charged with drawing them up has arrived at what it believes to be a workable solution.
The Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee issued a plan that is the result of months of work involving more than a dozen public meetings around the state and input from various communities, groups and individuals. The committee held a public meeting in Douglas Sept. 19.
The state’s 14-percent growth during the last decade to more than 560,000 people and an influx of workers into areas experiencing robust energy development – such as Converse and Campbell counties in this part of the state – presented significant challenges, but in the end the committee was able to carve out new districts that meet federal standards.
The committee will meet again on Jan. 19 to consider final public input, then draft a bill to be voted on during the upcoming legislative budget session. A plan must be implemented in time for the 2012 election.
Matt Obrecht, staff attorney with the Wyoming Legislative Service Office, said that amendments to the draft bill will be considered at that time, and that the committee will still consider public input leading up to its January meeting.
“Like any other bill introduced, they can amend it on the floor,” Obrecht said. “Amendments must adhere to certain principles to be considered. There even could be a different redistricting bill introduced, or the governor could veto the plan. I don’t foresee this, but in the event the Legislature can’t get a plan figured out during the budget session, they could hold a special session.”
The current districts were adopted in 2002. There are 30 single member Senate Districts and 60 single member House Districts, with two contiguous House Districts “nested” into each Senate District. In the 2002 plan, Converse County’s House districts were mixed with other less-populated counties, thus “carving up” Douglas into multiple districts.
The growth in population means that Wyoming’s 60 House Districts ideally should contain 9,394 people. A plus-or-minus 5-percent deviation is allowed.
With a population of more than 13,800, Converse County is too large for one House District and too small for one Senate District, which must contain roughly 18,000 people. Currently, the county is home to Senate District 2, which extends down into Platte County. House Districts 3 and 6 presently are nested into Senate District 2. The eastern portion of the county is in Senate District 1, in which House Districts 1 and 2 are nested.
Under the new proposed plan, the county would still be home to Senate District 2, with a moderate change in boundaries, and Senate District 23, which would encompass a portion of the present Senate District 2 and would extend into Campbell County. The new Senate District 2 will be home to House Districts 5 and 6, while the new Senate District 23 will include House Districts 3 and 31.
You may view the proposed district maps interactively online at http://redistricting.state.wy.us/planviewer/ The web page includes a feature allowing the user to input a physical address to find a resident’s new district.
“A bunch of Converse County folks have used the feature already,” Obrecht said, adding that the committee’s meeting in Douglas was one of the best attended in the state.
Obrecht also encourages residents to provide feedback to their current legislators, or to leave a comment on the redistricting website at http://legisweb.state.wy.us/PostComments/Disclaimer.aspx.