Thursday, October 20, 2011

Redistricting tensions build

Committee ready to begin drawing lines

Redistricting will again have the full attention of the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee today (Oct. 20) and tomorrow as it meets in Casper.

The implications of the re-drawing of legislative district lines have become clearer as more legislators, some in conjunction with their local officials, some not, put together plans for the committee to consider and eventually meld into a statewide plan.

The committee will take care of some other business Thursday morning then is scheduled to take up redistricting by 3 p.m. Co-chairman Sen. Cale Case said the committee’s anxious to get moving so may take it up earlier in the afternoon.

The committee is meeting at the UW Outreach Building, 951 N. Poplar Street, across from the Casper Planetarium.

The ESPC has tracked the committee as it has held community meetings across the state. As we noted in July following meetings in Rock Springs and Pinedale and later in the Big Horn Basin, the committee hears again and again that people identify strongly with their counties and want to keep the county “as intact as possible.”

That means they want to avoid seeing their county lumped in with people from other counties. It’s also request that the committee cannot deliver on. Wyoming’s population grew over the past decade and not in a consistent manner. Gillette saw a huge increase residents and the gas boom in the Green River Basin led to a near doubling of Sublette County’s population.

Other areas saw population declines.

There are now a dozen plans posted on the Legislature’s website. Most are regional or county plans. They do not mesh, so the committee will have to figure out who makes the best argument for “community of interest” – a term the committee has declined to define.

The County Clerks put up a plan for the entire state. It has been roundly criticized. The most recent was put up in the past few days by Rep. Jeb Steward of Carbon County. Steward has seen proposals that would run his district from the eastern boundary of Carbon County far to the west, taking in a subdivision north of Rock Springs and brining in Farson.

Geographically, it would be the largest House district in the state. Steward’s own plan still might be. It would take in Rock River in Albany County, Alcova in Natrona County, Jeffrey City in Fremont County and still pick up Farson.

The discussions today and Friday should prove quite interesting. The committee will begin deciding which plans and lines to adopt. Although this is the last scheduled meeting of the committee, the chairmen have said previously that it may be necessary to meet again prior to the February budget session.