FORT LARAMIE – House representatives and senators met with local officials and the public on Saturday to discuss redistricting.
The meeting centered around Wyoming’s Region 7 which covers Converse, Goshen, Niobrara and Platte County and how to avoid any major shakeups.
District 2 Senator (Converse, Platte) Brian Boner, and District 3 Senator (Goshen, Niobrara, Weston) Cheri Steinmetz were in attendance along with House District 2 Representative (Niobrara, Weston, Goshen) Hans Hunt, House District 5 Representative (Goshen) Shelly Duncan, and House District 6 Representative (Converse) Aaron Clausen.
Boner, Hunt, Duncan, and Clausen are all on the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee which will be the committee who makes the decision on redistricting.
According to the Wyoming Constitution, redistricting must take place after every census in the first budget period.
Representative Duncan presented information to the audience on how redistricting works and a few map proposals.
“An essential feature of redistricting is to ensure [the] one person one vote principle required by federal law,” Duncan said.
The principle relates to a 5% deviation both ways in relation to the population of the district compared to the state.
Duncan also talked about the redistricting principles which include keeping the districts contiguous and compact, following county boundaries, and avoid deluding minorities.
According to the 2020 census, nine of Wyoming’s 23 counties grew in population setting the house district average population to 9,614 and the senate district population to 19,223.
Duncan also presented possible map proposals and highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of each map. Goshen County Clerk Cynthia Kenyon and her office brought three different ideas for the redistricting in Region 7.
All of the information provided by Duncan can be found on the Wyoming legislature’s website at https://www.wyoleg.gov/Legislature/LegislatureAbout?tab=3
Senator Boner gave more background on redistricting and why the state must do it. The legislature used to avoid the 14th amendment which signifies the one person one vote principle. If any other metric is used besides population, then it is deemed unconstitutional. Wyoming eventually had to cooperate in the 90s.
“We ignored that, and then we got sued,” Boner said.
While Region 7 is around 2-3% under the population average, Laramie County is around 4% over with Albany County brining their region closer to the average. Laramie County is now making a push into Region 7 for more people in the district and an extra seat. Boner said the type of lines Laramie County wants to draw for the new districts can be considered jerrymandering.
“Right now, we have three representatives and two senators,” Boner said.
The hope is to keep the open seat which they are holding onto instead of giving it to Laramie County.
Representative Hunt said it is important to keep communities together to avoid disenfranchising people.
“At the end of the day odds are that when a rural district encompasses multiple counties, chances are you’re going to vote for your hometown person,” Hunt said.
Citizens in the small portion of Goshen County who would be grouped with Laramie County’s region could see their votes get overshadowed by the rest of the region according to Hunt.
The senators and representatives encouraged those present to testify at the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 6 in Douglas. This will be the last public meeting with the entire committee before the budget session in February of next year.