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Gov. Mead signs redistricting plan into law

Posted: Thursday, Mar 8th, 2012

On Wednesday, Gov. Matt Mead signed House Bill (HB) 32 into law, approving the Senate and House districts for the next 10 years.

After 10 months, more than 20 meetings and countless multicolored maps, the redistricting is complete, and, though some may still be discontented with the plan, Sublette County, for the most part, was one of the biggest winners in the process.

Since redistricting began, there has been a cry from county residents to “keep Sublette County whole.” This was not possible, as Sublette County’s population far exceeds the “ideal number” of 9,394 people, plus or minus five percent.

The redistricting principles state districts should be contiguous, compact and reflect a community of interest. The rules also dictate the majority of a county’s population should be in one district.

“Probably the biggest challenge has been to follow the legal and constitutional requirements and have people satisfied with the outcome,” Sen. Stan Cooper, Senate District (SD) 14, wrote in an email. “Large population shifts, like those in Sublette County, are a challenge because it requires people to be moved out of their current districts and into other districts. There’s just no way to avoid that.”

Prior to HB 32, the county was split between north and south with Big Piney and Marbleton residing in House District (HD) 20 and Pinedale, Boulder, Daniel, Cora and Bondurant in HD 22. This split has been an issue of contention, as Pinedale, Boulder, Big Piney and Marbleton all reflect a community of interest: oil and gas exploration.

Sublette County also saw a 73.1 percent population increase in the past 10 years, adding to the frustration of keeping the county in one consolidated district. But despite these difficulties, the committee found a way to keep Sublette’s community of interest together.

“The Big Piney and Marbleton area and Pinedale, Cora and Boulder are all now in the same house district. This area represents 93 percent of the people in the county,” Cooper wrote. “We did the best we could for the people of Sublette County.”

With the signing of HB 32, the majority of Sublette County will be in HD 20, with the northwest portion of the Sublette included in HD 22 with Teton and Lincoln Counties. Representative Jim Roscoe currently represents HD 22 and Rep. Kathy Davison occupies the HD 20 seat, but, because HD 20 shifted north, Davison will be unable to run for her current seat as she now resides in HD 21. Roscoe owns property in both HD 20 and HD 22, so he has the option to run for either.

“There were a few districts that now displace current representatives. They can still run in the district they end up in,” Roscoe wrote in an email. “Senators will stay in their current seat till they have to run again which could be in two years. Representatives will all run for election this fall.”

Senate Districts also saw some changes with SD 16 moving west and south, and SD 14 pushing a bit further north. Both SD 14 and 16 will retain Sens. Dan Dockstader and Cooper as Sublette County Senators.

Rep. Pete Illoway (R-Laramie), chairman of the Joint Corporations Interim Committee, told the Roundup he was “mostly satisfied” with HB 32 and lauded the efforts of Sublette County Clerk Mary Lankford.

“It was a busy summer, and we worked extensively with the county clerks,” he said. “You have to make it so they have something to work with, and Lankford went above and beyond.”

Anyone who attended a redistricting meeting could immediately see there was no way to make the entire state content with the plan. Illoway pointed out the population did not move harmoniously, which made for an increasingly difficult task. But with a district that encompasses nearly the entire county, Sublette residents may be at least satisfied with HB 32.

“The big news was Sublette got that district. Our hope was to get that Sublette district created, and we got it done,” Senator Dan Dockstader (SD 16) said. “They’ve got someone now who can step up to the plate and run in Sublette County.”

For the complete article see the 03-09-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-09-2012 paper.

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