It all means there isn’t enough wiggle room in the numbers to let Meeteetse stay in a Park County district, legislators said at a meeting with Big Horn Basin commissioners last week.
If it isn’t Meeteetse residents being shifted, it would have to be residents elsewhere in Park County, legislators say.
State Rep. Dave Bonner, R-Powell, said the legislators’ only alternative to shifting 550 Meeteetse residents to the Hot Springs-centered House District 28 would have resulted in sending 1,000 Garland-area residents out of his Powell-area district.
“If you want to retain in Park County ... those two Meeteetse districts, you’re willing to dispatch 1,000 people out of Park County on the other end,” said Bonner, who is also the Tribune’s publisher. HD 28 also would have be stretched all the way to Shell and Emblem from as far south as Shoshoni, Coe said.
Making those changes were not worth it, legislators decided, but they did find a way to address what they believe was the biggest concern from the Meeteetse residents: the angst over being split up.
“The No. 1 thing they want is to be kept together,” Coe told commissioners.
Instead of leaving one of the Meeteetse-area voting districts in Park County, the legislators’ revised proposal sends all three Meeteetse precincts into House District 28, where they’ll join Hot Springs, southern Big Horn and northern Fremont counties.
Speaking to commissioners, the legislators said Meeteetse residents will not be lost in the legislative shuffle.
“They’re not left out,” said Harvey, who represents House District 26. “They’re better represented than most communities in the state because of the unification we have (among the Basin’s legislators).”
Coe said all four counties “care about each other” and have close ties, noting agricultural interests and public lands that spread across the Basin.
“I’m not going to stop representing Meeteetse if it’s not in my area,” he promised, adding that he works to represent Powell although it’s not in his district.
“To keep the county together feels right,” said Harvey, but she said it was more important to keep together the Big Horn Basin and its ranching and agricultural communities of interest.
Under the revised plan, some Garland-area residents will also have to shift to House District 50, which includes Clark, Crandall, the area between Powell and Cody and the eastern part of Cody, Bonner said. The district currently is represented by Pat Childers, R-Cody.
“We hope that you’ll be able to accept what we have agreed upon as your nine legislators,” Harvey told the group of commissioners.
Park County commissioners, who had joined with the town of Meeteetse and the cities of Powell and Cody to oppose the proposed plan, indicated they accepted the legislators’ explanation of the need to move Meeteetse.
“A very difficult decision and job there, and we appreciate that and thanks for your hard work on that,” said Commission Chairman Tim French.
The Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Committee meets Jan. 19, to finalize its state-wide redistricting plan; it will then be debated during the Legislature’s 2012 budget session.
The committee is accepting comments through Jan. 18. More information about the process and how to submit comments can be found by visiting http://legisweb.state.wy.us and clicking the link marked “2011 Legislative Redistricting.”
The redistricting affects only state House and Senate voting districts and does not alter other voting boundaries such as school districts, fire districts or county government races.