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Five commission districts to stay, but adjustments to lines

Mar 18, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Consideration has ended for a revised plan that would have condensed the five single-member county commissioner election districts into three.

"We have been advised that anything proposed this first time out will likely be challenged, and we will be back in court," Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese stated to commissioners in her report dated March 13.

The decision arrived as Freese and other county officials make improvements to the election process and work on adjusting borders of the five commission districts to account for population changes in the 2010 U.S. Census.

Any county commission district changes will be the first since a federal court ruling created the voting regions in late 2010 because of 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.

Three considered

Freese has proposed three plans that involve adjustments to current district boundaries, but a fourth plan proposed by commissioner Dennis Christensen would have reduced the districts to three from five total.

The Wind River Indian Reservation would continue to have a district to elect one commissioner, while the remainder of the county would be split into two north-south sections roughly following the Wind River.

The two remaining districts would each have two commissioners with staggered terms, meaning voters in those districts would vote every election.

Voters in the reservation district would elect a commissioner every four years.

Christensen's plan generated six written messages provided to Freese's office and commissioners in support of the proposal, according to copies of the letters included in Freese's report.

Another letter included in the report supported one of the other three plans.

Commissioners ultimately will decide which revision plan to implement. Visit fremontcountywy.org/county-clerk/election-and-voting/ to view the three voting plans under consideration.

More work coming

One plan takes into account the lines drawn by the Wyoming Legislature to account for redistricting changes to its political boundaries.

Another involves the district boundaries as proposed by the county government but rejected by the court in favor of the plan presented by the American Indian plaintiffs in the case.

A third plan involves keeping the current districts in place but cleaning up some boundary lines, specifically involving Lander, Hudson and Beaver Creek.

Freese's proposed schedule for making the changes involves a work session with the commissioners March 20 followed by final board approval April 3.

The changes will be complete in time for the primary election candidate filing period from May 17 to June 1.

The primary election is set for Aug. 21.

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