Fight to keep county whole continues

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

With a month until the start of the 2022 Wyoming legislative session, the fate of redistricting for the state is still questionable as battles over various areas in the state continue. 

One of those areas, as previously reported by the News Letter Journal, is the current Region 6 area, which includes Campbell, Crook and Weston counties. More specifically, Weston County representatives have continued to fight to prevent its county from being split and having split representation. 

Remaining whole means the county’s voters would have  a representative living in the county, as several individuals noted in their pleas to the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivision Committee on several occasions, including on Dec. 1. 

Redistricting, according to the Legislative Service Office, is the process of redrawing the geographic boundaries of an area from which people are elected as representatives to the Legislature. Under the Wyoming Constitution, the Legislature is required to complete the process before the first budget session following each U.S. census to reflect shifts in population. 

The plan will be adopted by the full Legislature during the 2022 budget session, scheduled to begin Feb. 14. Before final approval, several potential plans are submitted and reviewed across the state. The Joint Corporations Committee is tasked with preparing a plan to present to the Legislature, although individual plans can be introduced. 

Based on the most recent census, Weston County has the population, which affords it 0.7 of a representative, while Crook County has the population to afford it 0.75 of a representative, according to Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower. Both counties are in Region 6 with Campbell County, which could have 4.8 or 4.9 representatives based on population. 

“The way it lays out in our (Region 6) district …, there (is) enough population for three senators and six representatives plus some,” Driskill told the committee on Dec. 1. 

Since then, the committee has held several additional meetings to discuss redistricting. The result of these meetings, according to Weston County Commissioner Marty Ertman, has been several approved maps, some that keep Weston County whole and some that don’t. 

“The tables have turned. We are wanting to stay whole and Driskill’s proposed plan was passed. Now Weston County is back being whole on the statewide plan,” Ertman said on Jan. 4, during the regular meeting of the commissioners. 

She noted that at the previous meeting, the committee passed the “Z plan,” submitted by Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Laramie. This plan split Weston County, Ertman said. 

Driskill told the News Letter Journal on Jan. 10 that with the latest plan having Weston County whole, he thinks that it is likely the county could remain that way when the final redistricting plan is approved. He noted that while he has been a little distant on discussing the topic with the newspaper, he has followed through on his promise to fight to keep the county whole. 

“In the latest plan, Weston County is whole and that was passed by the committee,” Driskill said. “Campbell County may try to do something with it, but beyond that, most of the state is OK with how it lays. The Senate districts are the biggest question.” 

As previously reported by the News Letter Journal, House districts are currently nested in Senate districts. Due to population shifts, the nesting of the districts together has been an area of contention with the committee 

“With the way the statewide plan is now, there is probably not the ability to have two House districts in a Senate district,” Ertman said at the Jan. 4 meeting. “It is not imperative that it happens.” 

According to Ballotpedia, 18 states, including Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, use nesting when creating some or all of their legislative voting districts. 

The next redistricting meeting is scheduled for Jan. 12 at the University of Wyoming at Casper College, Union/University Building, Room UU322, beginning at 1:30 p.m. A livestream of the meeting will be available on the Legislature’s website at wyoleg.gov.

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