House rebuffs Senate map

Victoria Eavis with the Casper Star-Tribune, from the Wyoming News Exchanges

The redistricting map rejected by the Wyoming House of Representatives from the Wyoming Senate featured 60 representatives laid out in the pictured districts. 

CASPER —The Wyoming House of Representatives on Monday rejected the redistricting map approved by the Senate, setting the stage for negotiations between the chambers later this week. At stake are the legislative districts that lawmakers will serve in for the next decade. 

The two chambers will have to hammer out multiple differences including the size of the Legislature. The House was the first chamber to work the bill, and representatives there amended the map some and then it moved to the Senate, where lawmakers there amended it further. 

In the end, the House did not like the changes the other chamber made, rebuffing them by a vote of 46 to 11 on Monday. 

Lawmakers have been working for months on redrawing the state’s legislative districts in light of population changes over the past decade. The process has been a challenge, especially as lawmakers try to balance population growth in Wyoming’s larger cities with the state’s shrinking population in rural areas. 

The map that the House delivered to the Senate added three lawmakers — two representatives and one senator — on top of the 90 that already exist. 

The Senate removed those and reverted a number of the lines back to an older map that the committee responsible with redistricting chose not to advance. 

Both the House and the Senate maps were slightly “out of deviation,” meaning that the ratio of constituents to representatives was not proportional enough. 

If districts are out of deviation, they risk being struck down by the courts in violation of the 14th Amendment. Courts have held that if districts are within 10% deviation, they comply with the 14th Amendment. 

The House’s map is considered less legally risky than the Senate’s. 

Monday’s vote triggered legislative leadership to appoint a committee of three representatives and three senators to hash out of the differences between the chambers. 

In the first round of conference committee meetings, the lawmakers will work within the two bills. For instance, because one chamber has 93 lawmakers on its map and the other chamber has 90, the joint committee can only release a plan between 90 and 93 lawmakers. After the first round of meetings is complete, however, lawmakers have free rein.

The joint committee consists of Reps. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, and Speaker of the House Eric Barlow, R-Gillette. The Senate members include Bill Landen, R-Casper, Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, and Ed Cooper, R-Ten Sleep. 

If the committee comes to an agreement, the panel will present a map for both chambers to vote on. 

Multiple lawmakers have labeled the task of redistricting a “political process,” acknowledging that the map needs to keep the majority of sitting lawmakers happy, considering it needs 16 votes on the Senate side and 31 on the House side to pass. 

There have been sporadic mentions of a possible special session to complete the redistricting process, but Barlow is confident that the lawmakers will get it done this week. 


This story was posted on March 9, 2022


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