Wyoming's Redistricting News
Gazette: "Redistrict bill enacted without Geringer O.K." March 6, 2002
Gov. Jim Geringer let a redistricting bill become law Tuesday without signing it, a display of his "personal unease" about the changes made.
The bill will redraw legislative voting districts to conform with population shifts identified by the 2000 census. It was the first bill to be passed by the Legislature and sent to the governor's desk.
Geringer said the new districts do not encompass areas of common interest.
"You no longer have that sense of place or even a community," he said.
He has "very personal" feelings about the way Platte County was "chopped up," he said. Geringer is from Wheatland, the seat of Platte County.
He said he understands the lines were drawn partly to protect the constitutional right of "one person, one vote."
The Senate and the House districts used to be drawn according to county lines but a lawsuit in 1991 forced the Legislature to abandon that system.
"I know I've got to do it, but I don't feel that good about it," Geringer said.
Meanwhile, Geringer said he supports a bill to create the Wildlife Legacy Trust Fund. Interest from the $27 million fund would be spent improving wildlife habitat, especially for threatened and endangered species. It would also be spent reducing human-wildlife conflicts and paying for property damage that results from trophy game animals.
Wildlife protection is in the public's interest and there is national interest in how Wyoming protects its wildlife, Geringer said.
The fund would be created by adding $10 million in school construction money to $17 million in existing Wyoming Game and Fish Department trust funds. Only the interest could be spent.
Senators on Monday rejected an amendment to the redistricting bill that would have required elections for all 30 Senate seats this year.
Normally in an election year only 15 Senate seats are open, but this year's redrawing of legislative boundaries based on the 2000 Census has raised questions about fairness.
On Monday, the Senate changed the proposed amendment so that only Sen. Mark Harris, D-Green River, would be faced with an election in the middle of his four-year term.
The amendment was based on the percentage of new voters in a district. Harris' Senate District 14 has close to 60 percent new voters.
Some senators were concerned about the constitutionality of only having one senator run in the middle of his term when 12 of the other 14 senators who would not face elections also had changes made to their districts.
Monday was the first day the Senate as a whole considered the House redistricting plan. The Senate accepted changes to the bill made by the Senate Corporations Committee, which eliminated two of three amendments made by the House.
However, the Senate as a whole did not accept numbering changes the Senate committee suggested. The changes would have numbered each of the two House districts within each Senate district with the Senate district's number plus an A or B.
The Senate passed an amendment from Sen. Grant Larson, R-Jackson, which would change how the House and Senate districts were set up in Teton County.
Before the Larson amendment, the bill would have put Jackson in one House district and the rest of Teton County in another.
Under Larson's amendment, Jackson would be split between two House districts. Half of Jackson would be included with most of rural Teton County and part of Fremont County, including Dubois. The other half of the town would be grouped with the rest of rural Teton County.
Larson said he introduced the amendment because Teton County officials have expressed concern about a city-county split if Jackson were its own district.
"This is not about going after any particular political party," said Larson. He was responding to criticism that his amendment was brought forward to stop the town from electing a Democrat.
The Senate rejected an amendment proposed by Sen. Delaine Roberts, R-Etna, who tried to change district boundaries to keep Lincoln and Sublette counties intact.
Larson said Roberts' amendment would have grouped different communities of interest and would also have made districts that were too large. One of the districts would have been 170 miles long from north to south.
All 30 state senators would run for office again this year under an amendment to the redistricting bill approved by the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee on Monday.
ìItís the attorney generalís opinion that we should all run,î Sen. Mark Harris, D-Green River, said.
All senators hold four-year terms. The Senate has staggered terms, so half of its members are new every two years. Redistricting throws a wrench in the system.
Itís a process undertaken once every 10 years that redraws political districts based on U.S. Census population reports. Since political boundaries shift, many people think a newly created district should have a voice in its legislative delegation.
Harris proposed an amendment to House Bill 75 that would call for a straw to be drawn, determining if senators from even- or odd-numbered districts would run for a two-year term instead of the usual four-year term.
Democratic Casper Sen. Keith Goodenough said the process is too random. He said under Harrisí proposal some senators might end up with six-year terms, and others might be limited to two- or four-year terms.
ìTwo years ago, 15 of us ran for a four-year term,î he said. ìIf weíre going to truncate to serve two-year terms, why not spread the damage over the entire group rather than affecting some twice as much?î
Goodenough said senators limited to two years by the redistricting-prompted re-election should be allowed to run for a four-year term, and senators ending their fourth year in office this year should be limited to a two-year run.
But, in the end, Harrisí drawing of straws proposal won. The committee voted 3 to 2 in support of Harrisí plan, with Goodenough and Sen. John Hanes, R-Cheyenne, voting against the amendment.
The overall redistricting bill was revamped to kill all changes made by the House of Representatives last week with the exception of one change to an area in the western part of the state.
It passed out of committee on unanimous approval. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for more debate this week.
In the first day of debate in the House of Representatives on the stateís redistricting plan, lawmakers sought to make minor changes to the bill.
Lawmakers passed House Bill 75 on first reading Tuesday after a lengthy explanation.
Members killed a proposal to return House Districts 3 and 5 to their current shapes.
The district border now runs east to west through Platte and Goshen Counties. The Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee proposal would run that line north and south through those counties.
State Rep. Bill Stafford, R-Chugwater, asked the House to keep the original lines. His District 3 is affected by the change as is the District 5 seat of state Rep. Jim Hageman, R-Ft. Laramie.
The panel also passed an amendment from state Reps. Bubba Shivler, R-Jackson, and Clarene Law, R-Jackson. It takes Jackson out of a doughnut formation (Jackson is surrounded by another House district) and puts Rafter J into the same district as most of Jackson, 17B.
The tiny town of Wilson would go from Lawís district, 17B, into Shivlerís 16B. It creates a new district, 17A, which looks something like a moose head. It would have the Pines, Teton Village, the Kelly and Moose areas.
Teton County grew from 11,172 in 1990 to 18,251 in 2000, necessitating a new House district.
The bill redraws Senate and House districts throughout the state using Census 2000 data.
Among the changes to the bill are a redrawing of districts in Teton County and southwest Wyomingís districts to accommodate an influx of people into Teton County and a substantial undercount in the 1990 census.
Laramie Countyís northwestern corner, represented by Rep. Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, was redrawn slightly, pushing Rossí district further away from Cheyenne. That area experienced substantial growth in the past decade.
HB75 hit the floor of the House of Representatives in a much different atmosphere than the redistricting bill 10 years ago.
Then, the debate was furious and personal as lawmakers ditched a county-based system in favor of a one-man, one vote, disregarding county boundaries in favor of districts of nearly equal population.
On Tuesday lawmakers applauded when the bill passed on a voice vote. It has two more readings before passing out of the House and into the Senate.
Earlier, the House Appropriations Committee stripped $250,000 out of the bill. The full House approved that later.
The money was in HB75 to pay for legal challenges to the redistricting plan. Panel members said the attorney generalís budget is $44 million, which should contain funds to defend redistricting if there is a dispute.
Matilda Hansen displayed the extensive knowledge she gained over 20 years as a Democratic member of the Wyoming House of Representatives in a talk at the Casper Petroleum Club Saturday.
Democratic Women's Forum emcee Mako Miller introduced Hansen, the former chairwoman of the Wyoming State Democratic Party, as the "the burr on so many saddles." Miller then took the microphone, yanked on the cord to give her some room to wander and dove into the topics of her book, "Clear Use of Power: A Slice of Wyoming Political History."
Hansen described the book as a "whodunnit and whodidn't-dunnit" in the politics of redistricting the state for legislative representation. The thrust of her book is that the northern rural counties of the state resisted redistricting the state for some time to prevent the Democratic southern counties from gaining power.
On Saturday, Hansen outlined the roots of Wyoming's own north-south antagonism, which began when Wyoming was part of the Dakota Territory in 1864. A Cheyenne lawyer made his way to the Dakota Legislature, but a miner from South Pass City in Fremont County beat him there and took the seat.
Through the years, northern counties continued to compete with the south for control of the government, even though the counties had fewer people, she said. The north gained its power from "a symbiotic relationship between minerals and agriculture," Hansen added.
Hansen noted she was giving a full political history of the interests Sam Western identified in his book "Pushed Off the Mountain, Sold Down the River." She said the conclusions in her book were similar to Western's belief that entrenched agricultural and mineral interests have kept Wyoming from growing.
Landowners got royalties from companies digging for oil and ore on their lands and didn't want to allow southern counties to tax them or raise wages in the state. The banks and the insurance companies shared these interests and the four groups formed "a power circle" and provided strength for the Wyoming Republican Party.
Through the years and after many court battles, this power base worked to keep Wyoming from adopting a one-person-one-vote system.
By the early 1990s, decades after the other states had adopted representation in proportion to population, Wyoming finally abandoned the county-based election districts that allowed population-poor counties to be representative-rich.
Still, she said, the Republican elite has been able to retain control of the Legislature through "stacking and fracturing," a process of drawing district lines to ensure Democratic voters in counties such as Teton and Sheridan cannot build an electoral base.
An audience member asked what will happen in the next reapportionment of districts.
"What I'd like my book to do is make the people drawing the lines more nervous," she said.
A redistricting plan to be considered by the Legislature next month would give Jackson Hole an additional senator and put two Sweetwater County senators in the same district.
Donít expect a game of musical chairs, however, between Sen. Mark Harris, R-Green River, and Sen. Tex Boggs, D-Rock Springs. Boggs, whose term expires at the end of the year, said Tuesday that Harris deserves to be the districtís lone senator if the Legislature gives him the seat.
ìUnless all 30 senators run, it would appear that Sen. Harris would continue in that position,î Boggs said. ìThatís certainly appropriate because Sen. Harris was elected for two more years.î
The Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee worked nearly a year on the redistricting bill, which as written would significantly alter Senate and House districts across the state.
The biggest proposed change, the one involving Boggs and Harris, has to do with Boggsí Senate District 13, which stretches between Rock Springs and Green River and includes parts of both cities. The proposed new SD 13 would include Harrisí home.
To the north, the boundary between SD 16, the district of Sen. Delaine Roberts, R-Etna, would shift north into SD 17, the territory of Sen. Grant Larson, R-Jackson. The proposed boundary would bisect the Jackson area.
Meanwhile, SD 17 would shrink to the east and would no longer wrap around both sides of the Wind River Range, from Pinedale to the north side of the Wind River Indian Reservation.
While western Wyoming would easily have the most legislative boundary changes under the proposed legislation, hardly a district in the state would be unaffected.
ìSouth and east didnít grow very fast, and north and west did, and that caused ripples across the state,î said Rep. Dave Edwards, R-Douglas.
Additionally, House districts would be renumbered. The two House districts in each Senate district would be given that districtís number plus an ìAî or ìB.î
Edwards, a member of the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, said he and the other committee members traveled across Wyoming gathering opinions about how the districts should be redrawn based on the 2000 Census.
The task of redrawing voting districts is required by the state constitution after the census, which is every 10 years. Each House district ideally would include 8,200 residents and each Senate district would contain 16,400 residents.
ìAlthough there are some people who are not particularly happy with their individual part of the pie, as you will, we really received far more agreeable comments than disagreeing,î he said.
ìI think we did a good job.î
What changes the Legislature might make is anyoneís guess, but a hefty amount of debate and proposed changes is almost certain. Rep. Fred Parady, R-Rock Springs, Larson and Rep. Randall Luthi, R-Freedom, have drafted an alternative to the proposal for Sweetwater Countyís legislative districts.
Also, while the committee voted Friday not to call for elections for all Senate districts this fall, such a proposal could still be introduced, according to committee member Rep. Tony Ross, R-Laramie.
ìUltimately, we will have to make that decision again,î he said.
Ross said it would be best to hold elections for all Senate districts this year and ensure that everyone is represented, even though that would require more campaign spending for senators elected just two years ago.
Rep. Pete Illoway, R-Cheyenne, feels differently.
ìItís an expense to have people run,î he said. ìTheyíve run before. I have to run every two years, but I have a soft spot in my heart for senators who have to run two years after they just ran.î
Whatever happens ñ and even if the issue requires an extended legislative session ñ the debate over redistricting is unlikely to be as grueling as 10 years ago, the last time legislative boundaries were redrawn. In 1991, Supreme Court threw out Wyomingís system of basing legislative districts on county lines, saying it gave proportionally more representation to residents of the least populous counties.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Sarah Gorin, now works for the Equality State Policy Center watchdog group. Gorin and others with the organization have been closely watching redistricting this time around.
ìWe support the committeeís consensus plan and generally feel theyíve done a good job soliciting public input,î she said.
Gorin praised the committeeís use of new mapping software to help redistricting. ìEverybody was worried about how it work,î she said. ìI think they did a nice job of planning ahead and utilizing the technology and making sure everybody got heard.î
State Sen. John Hanes said Thursday he doesn't think Gov. Jim Geringer's support for multi-member legislative districts will submarine a single-member district plan.
"I don't think that's going to make much difference," said Hanes, R-Cheyenne.
Hanes and state Rep. Wayne Johnson, R-Cheyenne, spoke Thursday night to about 10 members of the American Association of University Women about the Legislature's efforts at redistricting, which have been going on since the spring. Hanes said the governor probably wouldn't veto a plan that works, even if it avoids multi-member districts.
Single-member districts are districts that are represented by a single House member and a single senate member. Multi-member districts are represented by more than one senator and more than one representative.
Geringer has said he'd like to see more multi-member districts because he thinks it would encourage more people to run.
During the state's latest round of redistricting, informed by the 2000 Census, Laramie County lawmakers have made their opposition to multi-member districts known -- four sit on the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee, which is drafting a redistricting plan.
Thursday night, Johnson said he couldn't walk his district if he had to walk a major portion of the county. He said it takes him four months to walk the district he has.
Hanes said he couldn't afford to print his newsletter at the end of every session if it had to go to the whole county. But he also said there might be significant support for multi-member districts in the Legislature.
The committee chairs have already said there probably isn't enough support on the committee to pass a multi-member plan, though individually sponsored plans may surface.
When former Wyoming Sen. Harriett "Liz" Byrd last ran for office, she said her district was all of Laramie County. She couldn't walk her district like Johnson. She said Thursday she had to have help to get to the county residents.
Byrd ran before redistricting, when the state still had multi-member districts.
Hanes and Johnson both said races would be more expensive if candidates had to cover more ground.
Elizabeth Phelan said that money kept a lot of people out of politics now.
"We're not getting the good people because it's too darned expensive," she said.
Gov. Jim Geringer said he would call a special session next February so that the Legislature can tackle school financing, legislative redistricting and the state budget.
ìAny one of those could take up a full session,î Geringer said.
The Legislatureís regular 2002 budget session is set to convene Feb. 11. However, it is limited to 23 days.
A special session, which only the governor can call, has no time limit.
ìThat then gives them the ability to operate without the traditional restraints of a budget session,î Geringer said Tuesday.
The Legislature likely will convene in regular session, recess and then go into a special session, Geringer said.
The governor said he expects lawmakers to adopt rules for the special session requiring a two-thirds vote on all nonbudget bills, similar to the rules of a budget session.
But Geringer also said he hopes lawmakers will adopt exceptions to that rule, including redistricting and certain school finance bills.
Dropping the bar for introduction from two-thirds to a simple majority makes it easier to get those bills into the Legislature for discussion, particularly if there is significant resistance to any of them, he said.
He said he does not anticipate resistance to any of the big bills.
The special session would leave the Legislature with 23 unused days of meeting time. Lawmakers could call themselves back into session any time after the special session ends, though Geringer said he doesnít expect them to do that.
ìThe extra time on their hands is probably not going to be abused,î Geringer said.
He said he is not sure how long the special session will last. He said legislative leadership is hoping to finish by mid-March.
On redistricting, Geringer said he would not mind seeing some form of multimember districts in order to encourage more people to run for office.
ìThe idea of one person, one vote and restricting people to very specific House districts has actually deterred people from running,î he said.
Several members of the Laramie County legislative delegation really don't like multi-member districts.
One of the four redistricting plans proposed at the Wednesday meeting of the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee would reduce the number of Senate districts in the county from five to three. Two of the remaining three districts would then become multi-member districts, with two senators representing the same area. The committee has said it wants nested House districts - meaning there would be two House districts for each Senate district or four House districts for each multi-member Senate district.
State Sen. Rich Cathcart, D-Carpenter, opposed multi-member districts and said he thought judges would, too.
"I don't think the court will buy that," Cathcart said.
Cathcart was referring to a 1991 federal court decision striking down a Wyoming redistricting plan with multi-member districts. The court said multi-member districts had practical problems like voter confusion, remoteness from voters and reduced voter participation. If the court had to design the state's legislative districts, they would be single-member districts, the court said.
Cathcart said if voters had to pick two senators and four representatives, they often wouldn't know exactly who was representing them. And under a multi-member system, it's possible all the legislators in a district could live on the same block, the senator said. With single-member districts, voters might be frustrated because they can't vote for a candidate they like who lives outside of their district, but they're not confused about who represents them, Cathcart said.
At Wednesday's meeting in Jackson, four basic plans were offered:
Sen. John Hanes, R-Cheyenne, said he didn't like multi-member districts, either.
"I don't think a multi-member district would have much support among the Laramie County delegation," Hines said. With single-member districts, voters know who to talk with, Hines said.
"A senator or representative would run in his own neighborhood and develop a relationship with his constituents," Hines said. McOmie's plan was the hard way to go, the senator said. Hines' and Kinnison's plan to start with the Senate districts and draw the House districts afterward seemed like much less work, Hanes said.
Rep. Mac McGraw, D-Cheyenne, said he also opposed multi-member districts. Candidates would have to reach twice to four times as many voters as they would with single-member districts.
"I'm not sure that's fair," McGraw said.
Lawmakers are aiming to have a plan ready for the 2002 Budget Session, which starts Feb. 11. The committee will meet several more times to work out the kinks before that date.
Seven representatives' districts are more than 5 percent above or below
their ideal population of 8,230. All of the Laramie County Senate
districts' populations are within the limits.