SWEETWATER COUNTY — Sweetwater County elected officials are gearing up to go against the Wyoming Legislature due to a redistricting issue that would transfer one of the county’s representatives to Laramie County.
The seat in question is Rep. Jerry Paxton’s, in which he currently represents Carbon, Albany, and Sweetwater counties. However, due to 2020 Census data, the Legislature is proposing moving his seat from Sweetwater County to Laramie County instead.
According to the Wyoming 2020 Census data, Laramie County’s population grew by 9.6 percent from 2010 to 2020, with a total population of 100,512. Sweetwater County’s population, however, decreased by 3.5 percent between 2010 and 2020, with a total population of 42,272.
Following the 2020 Census data, the Wyoming Legislature is set to remap the Wyoming Legislative districts. The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions Committee is meeting, Wednesday, January 12, in Casper to go over the redistricting plans. However, Sweetwater County elected officials are planning to make some noise at this meeting in protest of losing one of the county’s seats.
During last week’s Sweetwater County Commission meeting, Wyoming Senator John Kolb (R-Sweetwater) presented the issue to the commission and encouraged their support in resisting the redistricting plans.
“They’re (Laramie County) not even at the 50 percent mark for another house seat, but they’re saying ‘oh, we’re close enough, so we should take the seat Jerry Paxton is currently holding in Carbon and Sweetwater, and move it over to Cheyenne.’ Which of course the folks at Cheyenne are just pleased as punch with,” Sen. Kolb said.
He added that the Coporations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions Committee does not have representation from Sweetwater County on it, or anyone from this side of the state.
Basically they’re using us to balance out all these other districts. Which of course we’re opposed to.-Senator John Kolb
Sen. Kolb also presented this issue to the Rock Springs City Council, and the elected officials discussed the matter during the intergovernmental meeting Thursday night. The Sweetwater County Commission and Rock Springs and Green River City Councils all agreed that they should draft a joint letter against the proposed redistricting plan.
“We need to be stepping up to the plate and make some loud noise or we’re going to lose a representative,” Sweetwater County Commissioner Mary Thoman said.
Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo agreed that they needed to voice their concerns. He added that Sweetwater County brings in a good portion of the state’s revenue, but seems to “get the shaft”. Sen. Kolb also said that Sweetwater County ranks second or third in the state for revenue, but is in threat of losing representation.
“We continue to get the shaft down here in southwest Wyoming when we bring a lion’s share of revenues back to the state, but this is totally unacceptable to allow this to occur. So yes, we need to stay on it and voice our concerns and not be pushed around by those on the other side of the state,” Mayor Kaumo said.
Sen. Kolb said the redistricting is based solely on population, but he found revenue worth mentioning.
Commissioner Lauren Schoenfeld said she spoke to Jerimiah Rieman, Wyoming County Commissioners Association’s Executive Director, and he said that the numbers and the loudness is coming from Laramie and Goshen counties.
“Apparently, per Census numbers, our area qualifies for a half a representative and they qualify for a half a representative, and so obviously you can’t split one person. So that is where the conflict is. There’s not a lot of good ways for them to split something up,” Schoenfeld said.
The Commission and Councils agreed to draft a joint letter and said they would look at trying to have a few people attend the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions Committee is meeting this Wednesday via video conference to testify.