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Redistricting in Wyoming

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Wyoming

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General Information
Process:   Legislative authority
Deadline:   March 2012
Total Seats to be Drawn
Congress:   1
State Senate:   30
State House:   60
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This page is about redistricting in Wyoming. As one of seven states with a single 'at-large' Congressional district, Wyoming's focus during the redistricting process was on state level offices. 2011 was the second time the state used a single member legislative redistricting system; the earlier method, which involved at-large members, was invalidated in a 1992 court ruling.[1]

Process

The Wyoming state legislature drew maps, specifically handled by the Joint Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Interim Committee, with the Governor of Wyoming holding a veto. The Interim Committee's work was presented as a bill and moved through the legislature the same way as any other bill. Under guidelines adopted by the committee, the state kept its 30 senate and 60 house districts. Each district deviated by no more than 10%.[2]

Public Hearings

Informational meetings around the state were announced in mid-April 2011. Proposed plans and additional information can be found at Wyoming's 2011 Redistricting website.

Redistricting principles

The state's Interim Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee adopted a set of principles intended to guide Wyoming's redistricting process. One item not included on the list was consideration of where legislators resided. This opened the door to incumbent legislators' being drawn into the same district and forced to compete for re-election.[3] Nationwide, these pairings were not uncommon. Some of these were the result of demographic and geographic necessity while others were an attempt to eliminate partisan rivals.

Meeting to consider public input, prepare redistricting bill

Members of the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee met in Cheyenne on January 19, 2012 to consider public comments and began preparing a final redistricting bill for introduction to the full Legislature.[4]

  • The press release with details on the meeting can be found here.

Leadership

Interim Committee Members

Senate Membership:

House Membership:


Constitutional explanation

Section 3 of Article 3 of the Wyoming Constitution states, in part, "Each county shall constitute a senatorial and representative district; the senate and house of representatives shall be composed of members elected by the legal voters of the counties respectively, every two (2) years."

The Constitution adds a note stating, "This section is inconsistent with the application of the “one person, one vote” principle under circumstances as they presently exist in Wyoming. Consequently, the Wyoming legislature may have disregarded this provision when reapportioning either the senate or the house of representatives."[5]

Figure 1: This map shows the Wyoming Congressional District after the 2000 census.
Figure 2: This map shows the Wyoming Legislative Districts after the 2000 census.

Census results

2010 Census findings

Wyoming, the nation's smallest state by population, remained at one congressional seat. However, internal population shifts and uneven population growth promised to create challenges for lawmakers.[6] Concerns that the 2009 population estimates would not be an accurate prediction of the official 2010 Census information added to the concern.[7] The state enjoyed a rapid 14% growth in population, ranking as the nation's 12th fastest growing state.[8]

Wyoming receives local data

On March 2, 2011, Wyoming received its local 2010 census data. The data guided the state as it redrew state and local electoral districts.[9] Local data showed large gains in Hispanic populations and energy producing regions. The Hispanic population grew by almost 60% in the last ten years, and Gillette, spurred by coal-bed methane drilling, grew by 48%. Sublette County, a large player in the energy boom, grew by 73%. Although this growth didn't warrant an additional congressional seat, state lawmakers had to work to incorporate these population shifts as they redrew state-level maps.[8]

Legislative redistricting

Public input

The Joint Interim Committee on Corproations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions conducted hearings across the state throughout the summer of 2011. Those forums started with two meetings in Rock Springs and Pinedale. Representative Pete Illoway (R) said the process this year was likely more difficult than after the 2000 census. According to the Legislative Service Office, 56 of the 90 combined Senate and House districts were outside of the legally required population size.[10]

On June 28, 2011, the committee held a redistricting hearing in Cheyenne. At the meeting, one proposed plan was made by Laramie County Clerk Debbye Lathrop. The plan dealt specifically with Laramie County. House representative Dan Zwonitzer (R) said he objected to that plan because it splits Sun Valley. House representative Hans Hunt (R) proposed a plan that covered the entire state while State senators Marty Martin (D) Stan Cooper (R) submitted a draft plan for parts of western and southwestern Wyoming.[11][12]

Senate elections uncertain

According to an opinion from Wyoming Attorney General Greg Phillips, lawmakers would have to decide whether senators up for election in 2014 would need to run earlier as a result of state redistricting. Wyoming's 30 senators run for staggered four year terms with 15 senators running for election every two years. In 1992, all 30 senators ran, but this immediately followed the elimination of county-based Senate districts. In 2002, only those up for election were forced to run. State redistricting leaders sought the AG's opinion and suggested that their decision would largely depend on how much district lines changed.[13] Ultimately, 15 of the 30 seats went up for election in 2012.

Committee adopts partial draft map

On October 21, 2011, the joint committee in charge of Wyoming redistricting adopted a partial draft map for the state. The map placed Jeffery City and Dubois in the same district and gave Jackson a district almost entirely contained within the city. The map left districts in eastern Wyoming in limbo as lawmakers considered two possible plans for the region, each offering different approaches for Campbell and Laramie Counties. The committee planned to resolve the issue in early December.[14]

Committee adopts full draft map

On December 6, 2011, Wyoming's legislative redistricting committee adopted a plan for redrawing the state's House and Senate districts. The plan was revisited in January 2012 ahead of a February 2012 legislative session where the plan was submitted to legislators. The plan raised important constitutional questions for the state. Wyoming's senators are elected on staggered terms. Under the plan, two senators with different election schedules are drawn into the same district. Ultimately, the committee may have forced all 30 senators to run for re-election. Opponents of the plan objected to splits in Goshen County and the Star Valley. Growth in Sublette and Campbell Counties drove many of the changes across the state.[15]

Committees revisit, approve draft map

On January 19, 2012, Wyoming's Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee approved a legislative redistricting plan. Although the maps may have have been revised, they initially paired two Republican lawmakers in both chambers. The plans were considered by the full legislature in the session started in February.[16]

Committee approves amendment to draft

On February 14, 2012, the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee approved an amendment to the proposed redistricting plan that protected Sen. Curt Meier (R) by extending District 10 northward to encompass his residence. The bill faced a final vote on February 17, 2012.[17][18]

Maps pass state House

On February 17, 2012, the Wyoming House of Representatives passed a legislative redistricting bill for the state. Following a modification to prevent pairing incumbents Sen. Curt Meier and Wayne Johnson, the bill was expected to pass the Senate. The state saw marked growth over the past decade, but this growth left behind many of state's counties, especially those along its eastern border. The plan was approved 49-9. Although the chamber was split 50-10 in favor of the GOP, seven of the nine dissenting votes came from Republicans.[19]

Maps approved, signed into law

On March 1, 2012 the Wyoming State Legislature gave final approval to the state's new legislative districts. A House amendment to the bill preserving the seat of Sen. Curt Meier (R) was retained. The maps passed the Senate by a 28-2 margin and the House by a 51-8 margin. On Tuesday, March 6, 2012 Governor Matt Mead (R) signed the bill into law.[20][21][22]

  • The approved plans can be found here.

Timeline

According to the Wyoming Constitution, the state is required to redraw state legislative districts during the first budget session following the federal census. The budget session convened February 13, 2012 and lasted for 20 days, placing the deadline for redistricting in March 2012. In the interim, the Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Committee prepared a redistricting plan. However, other legislators were able to submit their own plans in the 2012 budget session. The plan was passed as normal legislation and could be signed or vetoed by the Governor of Wyoming.[23][24]

Legal issues

Lawsuit filed

A group of Wyoming citizens filed a lawsuit challenging the state's legislative redistricting plans. They argued that the plans did not give sparsely populated counties adequate representation. In addition, the residents claimed that the map split more county lines than necessary. The suit was filed with the State Supreme Court.[25][26]

History

2001 redistricting history

With a single Congressional district and a decidedly Republican flavor among state legislators, Wyoming's redistricting tended to come down to a matter of assessing and sorting out county borders for the sake of equally divided population. Following a 1991 federal court decision, a state Constitution provision requiring one each state Senator and state Representative per county was struck down, requiring a new map to be drawn in 1992. Previously, the rule had led to double digit deviation from equal districts in both chambers.

Still, the size of the legislature remained at 30 Senators and twice as many Representatives. In 2001, the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee sat down to redraw those boundaries, with a target to have a complete draft by September 2001 and a final plan ready for the full legislature by February 2002. At the time, there was pressure both to return to single-member districts and uncertainty over how the scheduled 2004 introduction of term limits would affect redistricting.

America's most sparsely populated state, Wyoming's ideal districts were at 8,230 for the House and 16,459 for the Senate. At the outset, nine Senate and 33 House districts fell outside the +/- 5% accepted deviation. Midway through May 2001, the Joint Committee settled on nine fairly standard guides for redistricting, including a ban on considering legislators current addresses for the sake of protecting incumbents and a preference to create contiguous seats wherein each Senate district corresponded to two House seats. A tenth provision, instructing lawmakers to consider both single- and multi-member districts was deleted.

In late August 2001, four potential maps were publicly presented, which caused enough bickering that, on November 1, 2001, the Governor Jim Geringer announced he would convene the legislature ahead of the set February 11, 2002 session to tackle, among other special items, redistricting. At the same time, Geringer expressed his prerogative to see multi-member districts, reasoning that such a design would encourage more people to run.

A detailed plan was ready by early January 2002 and when the legislature sat the following month, House Bill 75 passed on its first reading while amendments that would have reversed some district changes were defeated. Things were stickier in the Senate, whose 30 members serve four-year terms, staggered so that only half Wyoming's seats are up in a given year. Some members proposed that all Senators be forced to run in the 2002 elections in order to make transitioning to the new districts smoother. Ultimately, a proposal to have Senators literally draw straws to determine who ran in what year won, even though it meant some would have six-year terms and some only two.

The redistricting bill became law on March 6, 2002 by something of a gubernatorial default. Due to personal 'unease' over what he saw as splitting of communities of interest, Governor Geringer did not sign the bill, instead opting not to veto and thus to allow it to become law.[27]

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[28]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts N/A
State House Districts 9.81%
State Senate Districts 9.51%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Large v. Fremont County

In April 2010, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming ruled that that at-large voting, as used in Fremont County for the election of county commissioners, was in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. 20 percent of Fremont Counties population are Native Americans. However, no Native American has ever been elected to the commission. Since at-large election can allow a block of majority voters to elect entirely its own representatives, the court ruled that the process illegally diluted minority voting strength. Fremont County was therefore ordered to enact district elections.[29]

Ballot measures

The following measures have appeared on the Wyoming ballot pertaining to redistricting.

See also

External links

References

  1. The Wyoming Legislative Accountability Project, "Wyoming Legislative Redistricting", accessed February 17, 2011
  2. Star Tribune, "Committee sticks with current Wyoming Legislature configuration," April 13, 2011
  3. Wyoming Tribune Eagle, "Redistricting causes a stir for state pols," July 3, 2011
  4. Douglas Budget, "Proposed legislative redistricting carves up Douglas a little less," December 28, 2011
  5. Wyoming Secretary of State, "Wyoming State Constitution," accessed June 18, 2012
  6. Star Tribune, "Wyoming population changes could make redistricting panel's job difficult," April 12, 2011
  7. Tribune Online, "Redistricting may pose challenge for Wyoming lawmakers", November 10, 2010
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Republic, "2010 Census shows heavy population gains in Wyoming's energy boom areas," March 3, 2011
  9. US Census Bureau, "Census Bureau Ships Local 2010 Census Data to Wyoming," March 2, 2010
  10. Wyoming Tribune Eagle "Redistricting process gaining momentum," May 22, 2011
  11. Billings Gazette "Redistricting proposals take shape," June 29, 2011
  12. Trib.com "Wyoming legislative committee collects more redistricting proposals," June 29, 2011
  13. The Examiner, "All Wyoming state senators may face 2012 election," October 11, 2011
  14. Billings Gazette, "Wyoming legislators make progress on redistricting plan," October 21, 2011
  15. Star Tribune, "Wyoming lawmakers OK redistricting plan," December 6, 2011
  16. Local News 8, "Wyoming Legislative Committee Approves Redistricting," January 19, 2012
  17. The Republic, "Committee approves redistricting amendment aimed at saving incumbent senator's seat," February 14, 2012
  18. Star-Tribune, "Redistricting bill faces last House vote," February 17, 2012
  19. Star-Tribune, "Wyoming House passes redistricting bill," February 17, 2012
  20. Wyoming Legislature, HB32 Bill Digest, Accessed March 9, 2012
  21. Wyoming Tribune Eagle, "Redistricting plan clears both House and Senate," March 10, 2012
  22. Pinedale Roundup, "Gov. Mead signs redistricting plan into law," March 8, 2012
  23. Wyoming Legislature, "General Redistricting Information"
  24. Wyoming Legislature, "Session Information"
  25. Uinta County Herald "Redistricting lawsuit heads to high court," March 30, 2012
  26. Casper Star-Tribune, "Lawsuit challenges Wyoming redistricting plan," April 5, 2012
  27. FairVote Archives, "Wyoming's Redistricting News", accessed March 14, 2011
  28. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”, accessed February 1, 2011
  29. ACLU Press Release, "Court Overturns Election Procedures That Dilute American Indian Vote In Wyoming," April 30, 2010