News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Apr 16, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck
Those that remain are an antidote to the anti-voter lawsuits and districts of recent years
The political season is building speed in Fremont County, and despite obstacles to voter participation through changes in state law, voters will get the chance to participate in some interesting races countywide in 2014.
Many words have appeared on this opinion page about the negative effects of carving up the Wyoming legislative map into a checkerboard of odd, illogical districts. It has reduced competition, confused voters, and diminished voter interest over the past 25 years.
More recently, the powers-that-be exercised this same poor judgment by forcing county commission districts on voters. Since that happened, fewer citizens seek the office, and voter turnout has plummeted.
Nice going, lawyers and judges. You must be so proud to have mucked up the electoral process to the point that so many more people now just don't bother to vote.
With that as the backdrop, it's great to see real competition emerging in a couple of races in which voters still can vote on a countywide basis. At least two candidates have emerged for Fremont County sheriff, and the incumbent Fremont County attorney is being challenged in the primary election as well. There also is going to be a contested race for Fremont County coroner. More contested elections might come along.
There are no county sheriff, county coroner or county attorney voting districts, meaning that everyone within the county's borders can vote in these elections. The same goes for county clerk, county treasurer, county assessor and clerk of district court, although so far no competitive elections have developed for those offices.
It's unlikely that a contest for county coroner will fire up voter interest the way the old at-large voting for county commission and Wyoming Legislature did ("vote for five," "top three elected" -- those were the days), but a good sheriff's race always draws attention, and there are real issues to talk about in the county attorney showdown as well.
We'll also be electing, or re-electing, a governor, a U.S Senator and U.S. Representative this year as well -- via at-large voting in which everyone gets the same ballot.
A quarter-century of evidence shows that our county legislative races would be better if that still were the case, and the first couple of ballots with commission districts has demonstrated that voters are far less interested there as well. There are now so many districts, sub-districts, wards, precincts and other dividing lines for citizens trying to vote in elections for school boards, city and town councils, Wyoming House districts, Wyoming Senate districts, county commission districts, conservation districts, cemetery districts and precincts that it takes a roadmap just to pick your way through the ballot.
Relish the straightforward, countywide elections we'll have this year. Voting is getting more difficult, but it's still important -- and we're the only ones who can do it.