The News Editorial: Time to find a better way
March 24, 2022
Officials from the Wyoming Democratic Party, during a press conference last week asked for an independent commission to handle redistricting efforts in the future. With politics and personal agendas coming to light during the process this year an independent commission may not be a terrible idea.
County clerks across the state worked hard on redistricting during the interim to come up with district lines that worked with special districts in their county, worked to make sure voters were not isolated, and they worked with local legislators as they developed their maps.
That hard work during the interim did not mean much with the House and Senate making changes during the recent legislative session.
During the press conference the Democratic Party officials alleged one Sheridan County legislator lobbied for a certain district line in order for family members to be able to vote for him. Those types of discussions and concerns should never happen.
Another concern of the party is that if the redistricting bill is signed into law by Governor Mark Gordon, then there are voters on one side of the street voting for one legislator and voters on the other side voting for a different legislator.
While they seemed concerned about this in Sheridan County, no mention was made that this same thing is occurring in Basin with the town split between House District 27 and 28. That decision, however, was made with the consultation of the Big Horn County Clerk. It was not made as a last minute decision in Cheyenne.
Since redistricting began, when counties were no longer represented by county legislators the Big Horn Basin legislators have worked to represent the entire Big Horn Basin.
While I agree there were issues with this process we don’t necessarily agree with all of the issues noted by the Democratic Party like people on different sides of a street represented by a different legislator. It’s not ideal but it is not unheard of either.
Consider the Town of Frannie not split by legislative district lines but by county lines.
I do think most people realize there were some issues with redistricting this year and it was one of the more difficult ones due to population shifts in the state. Will redistricting after the 2030 census and more population shifts be even harder? More than likely.
With redistricting likely to get harder, perhaps in the interim, until the next census, the legislators, with the help of the clerks, should consider a better way and make the changes necessary to have a better way in place by 2030.
Is the answer an independent commission? I don’t know. If the commission were instructed to consider things like geography and demographics of communities, and with the consultation of county clerks, it might work.
The commission should not worry about which legislators keep their districts, if family and friends get to continue to vote for certain legislators, or if counties get to stay intact (Hot Springs and Washakie County are fortunate to each have just one house district, Park and Big Horn counties have multiple districts).
I agree with the Democratic Party officials in that having a judge determine the boundaries is not the answer. This option was brought up as a result if some one or some organization were to sue over the redistricting boundaries.
I know that the current process is cumbersome and if you let politicians lead the way they will be unable to keep politics out of it.
The Legislature, hopefully with the help of the clerks, have 10 years to find a better way.