First meeting set on possible changes to commission district

Feb 22, 2012 By Martin Reed Staff Writer

Public meetings begin this week aimed at both informing and hearing from the public on possible changes to Fremont County Commission districts.

Meetings, all starting at 6 p.m. except for Dubois, are set for:

- Thursday, Feb. 23, at Big Wind Hall in Crowheart;

- Wednesday, Feb. 29, in the Riverton City Hall council chambers;

- Thursday, March 1, at the county commission chambers at the Fremont County Courthouse in Lander;

- Wednesday, March 7, at the Shoshoni Senior Citizens Center;

- Thursday, March 8, at the Wyoming Indian High School tech center;

- Thursday, March 15, at the Dubois Senior Citizens Center, starting at 12:15 p.m.

One possible change for the commission districts takes into account the lines drawn by the

legislative committee considering the boundary changes at the state level.

Another involves the district boundaries as proposed by the county government but rejected by a court.

A third plan -- one that seemed to have the strongest initial commission favor -- involves keeping the current districts in place but cleaning up some boundary lines, specifically involving Lander, Hudson and Beaver Creek.

During their meeting Feb. 7, commissioners heard a fourth proposal that board member Dennis Christensen suggested.

Christensen proposed a plan that would involve keeping the single-member district for the Wind River Indian Reservation in place while splitting the remainder of the county into two districts divided by the Wind River.

The remaining two districts would each have a pair of commissioners, with one running every other election so voters in those districts would vote every time.

Although the plan seemed to gain favor during discussions at the commission meeting, the idea did not pass initial legal muster.

Deputy county attorney Jodi Darrough said that Christensen's idea is likely "in violation of the current court order, the federal district court order on the our districting plan."

The five voting regions created by a federal court ruling in late 2010 resulted from a lawsuit by five Wind River Indian Reservation tribal members.

The court ruled that Fremont County's method of electing commissioners violated the federal Voting Rights Act because American Indians could not elect their candidate of choice.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is continuing to consider arguments made nearly a year ago on whether to impose a mix of at-large and single-member district regions for the commission.

Christensen said the idea he suggested seemed logical with most of the county's voters participating in every election.

"According to what I got from our counsel, we are under, I think, the judge's order to have single-member districts," he said. "I thought it was a good plan."

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