‘Albany County is now in play’
Local lawmakers agree on a redistricting proposal, but population changes across Wyoming could impact Albany County’s external district borders. Internally, district borders will also have to change.
Rep. Cathy Connolly (HD-13) did not mince words about coming changes to Albany County’s political map during a redistricting meeting Monday night.
While local lawmakers had hoped that a united proposal from Albany County’s delegation would be respected by the larger Wyoming Legislature, population changes across the state could interfere with the county delegation’s plan.
“Albany County is now in play,” Connolly told those at the meeting. “We like the idea of keeping Albany County whole — and we like the established (statewide) 60 reps, 30 senators, but know that’s a little bit in play as well.”
According to 2020 Census data, Cheyenne grew — meaning their legislators could look to establish another house district and possibly “poach” some of Albany County’s population east of Laramie to make the numbers work. Meanwhile, other districts as far north as Big Horn County have lost people since the 2010 Census — meaning they will need to extend the boundaries of their house districts if they hope to maintain them.
“Around the state, there need to be incursions — I called it poaching last time — into other districts in order for a region to be able to get the numbers that they need,” Connolly said.
Each house district in Wyoming needs to have about 9,600 people, plus or minus five percent. As one county takes from the next, and then that county has to take more on its other side, a population shift in northern Wyoming could quickly impact Albany County’s borders, Connolly said.
“There’s lots of discussion now about Albany County where they hadn’t been six weeks ago,” she said.
While population changes across the state could alter the external borders of local house and senate districts, population changes within the city of Laramie will definitely alter the internal borders.
“We also knew that our lines would have to change and they would have to change significantly,” Connolly said. “The reason is because of a shift in population. And that shift in population in particular took place in district 13 and district 45.”
Connolly echoed what Sen. Chris Rothfuss (SD-09) and others have previously alleged: that the 2020 Census data for Laramie is simply wrong. The census was taken during the pandemic’s first spring, summer and fall when the usually sizable student population in Wyoming’s only university town had gone home.
“We lost 1,500 people in HD-13 and 1,100 in HD-45,” Connolly said. “I understand that the city is going to appeal the count — and I appreciate that and I am confident we are going to win that — but that’s not relevant in terms of redistricting. We have to go with the numbers that we have right now and we have to draw the lines based on those numbers.”
During the meeting Monday, the county’s four house members discussed and defended a redistricting proposal put forward by Sen. Rothfuss.
HD-46 (currently represented by Rep. Ocean Andrew) would still encompass all of Albany County south and west of Laramie, but lose the neighborhoods in the southeast quadrant of the city — those around Washington Park and Wal-Mart. The district would, however, pick up West Laramie.
HD-45 (currently represented by Rep. Karlee Provenza) would grow less jagged. While that district currently extends south and west into the county, it would retreat on the southern side to stop at I-80, while extending farther to the north, encompassing LaBonte Park and beyond. It would keep the west side neighborhood just over the tracks, but lose most of West Laramie, which would join the rest of the county in HD-46. HD-45 would also pick up the tree neighborhood south of Grand Avenue, taking it from HD-13.
HD-14 (currently represented by Rep. Trey Sherwood) would lose the dorms, as its southern border moves north a few blocks. HD-14 would still encompass county land north of Laramie; notably, it would pick up Rock River. Rock River is in Albany County, but currently belongs to HD-47. Local legislators and residents have previously stated their intention to unify the county by reclaiming the town of Rock River.
HD-13 (currently represented by Cathy Connolly) would experience the most radical change — completely moving from northwest of the 15th/Grand Avenue intersection to southwest of that intersection. The new HD-13 would essentially encompass the dorms once belonging to 14 and the southwest neighborhoods once belonging to 46.
The delegation’s proposal is due to the Legislative Service Office on Nov. 5. The LSO will forward this and other regional proposals to the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee. That committee has been tasked with combining such proposals from across the state into a single bill.
Connolly said Albany County’s four-representative-two-senator delegation approves of Rothfuss’ proposal.
“In all honesty, the six of us like the map that you see before you — bipartisan, county-city, we’re okay with it,” she said. “But know that ultimately, it will go to the committee, which will draft a bill. They can accept or reject our map. And then it will go to the full body (of the Wyoming Legislature) and then the full body will debate it in both chambers in February. Lines can change and they did last time.”