If you’ve been following Wyoming politics this spring, you know that there was a lot of discussion about the statewide redistricting for Wyoming representatives and senators. Each time a new census is conducted, our legislators review population shifts within the state and make changes to the shape of districts that are representative of any population changes that have occurred. This is required by law. A similar statute governs this issue for Wyoming school boards that utilize trustee districts, and SCSD #1 is a district that uses trustee districts.
W.S. 21-3-111(b)(ii) states that the boundaries of the trustee residence areas shall be established so that the total deviation in the population between the areas with the greatest and least population shall not, to the extent practicable, exceed 10%”. It also states data from the last federal census shall be used in determining the population within an area for the purpose of implementing the law. As most of you know, Sublette County experienced a wee bit of growth from 2000-2010 and the variation between our trustee districts was significantly over the 10% variance, so the district began the process of redrawing the current trustee districts to meet the 10% variance as described in the statute.
Luckily for SCSD #1 and the residents of Sublette County, we had a couple of local experts to guide us through the process. Sublette County Clerk Mary Lankford certainly knows her way around the redistricting issue. Mary was front and center during the legislative redistricting on behalf of Sublette County. She was also a key player in creating the map that was presented by the Wyoming County Clerks and ultimately accepted by the Wyoming legislature. As the person responsible for seeing that the SCSD #1 trustee districts were redrawn, I can say without any hesitation I was thankful for Mary’s expertise because the process of meeting the 10% population variance isn’t easy. I would also like to thank Richard Greenwood. Richard is the founder of Greenwood Mapping in Jackson and the talent behind the actual creation of the maps. GIS technology has really changed the redistricting process and it was Richard’s expertise in this area that changed the process from what would have been days to hours.
Like a lot of governmental processes that are observed from the outside, I thought it would be as easy as just drawing a line wherever you wanted. But we’re dealing with the federal census and the federal government here…so I should have known better. Welcome to the world of census blocks. Unbeknownst to me, all counties in the Unites States are subdivided into census tracts and blocks. In populated areas, these blocks usually follow city streets in a seemingly logical pattern. In sparsely and intermittently populated areas such as Sublette County…well, just think about a jigsaw puzzle created by Rube Goldberg. Additionally, the rules regarding redistricting now require that the boundaries used are recognizable by citizens. This replaces unseen boundaries such as section lines with roads and rivers. While I agree with this change wholeheartedly, it does make the job of those responsible for drawing the map that much harder.
As a person that followed the state redistricting process with some interest, I can say that it’s far too easy to overlay a personal bias on the proposed changes found in a redistricting map. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to look at a proposed redistricting map, particularly the proposals that didn’t keep Sublette County whole, and immediately think that somebody was trying to stick it to our little corner of the world. While I’m sure there were some politics involved, I can now say with some degree of confidence that this process becomes as much of a mathematical equation as anything else. There is no rhyme or reason to the size and shape of census blocks, and at least within the confines of the boundaries of SCSD #1, redrawing our trustee districts to meet the 10% population variance leaves few solutions that don’t resemble a Jackson Pollock painting.
So after a fair bit of GIS wrangling (pardon the pun), we put together a proposed map that not only meets the 10% variance, but also uses recognizable boundaries and reflects the shifting population within SCSD #1 boundaries. It’s certainly not perfect, but we know that. I don’t think you could create a map that was. But, at least from my perspective, it’s fair. And it meets intent of the statute and the concept of “one man one vote”.
You can access a pdf copy of the maps created by Greenwood Mapping below. And if you would like to provide feedback to the Board of Trustees regarding the proposed map, you can email them by clicking here.