Laramie, Wyo. – Plaintiffs in Fremont County's ongoing voting rights case are expressing dismay and disappointment. That's after the Fremont County Commission decided to appeal a federal judge's order that the county should elect commissioners from five single-member districts. Earlier this year, Judge Alan Johnson ruled that the county's longtime system of electing county commissioners from one county-wide district violated the Voting Rights Act. He said that system diluted the Native American vote.
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Gary Collins, says it's clear that - in Fremont County - an at-large or county-wide voting district poses problems. "When the at-large system is involved," he says, "all of the commissioners could be on one street. Or one square mile. And we have a large county. A diversified population. And so to level the playing field I think the commissioners should be from different parts of the county."
Last week, the vice-chair of the Fremont County Commission said he believed Judge Johnson overstepped his authority when he told the county to create five voting districts. The commission wants to have just two districts. Under that plan there would be one district and one commissioner for the Wind River Reservation and one district for the rest of Fremont County, which would elect four commissioners. Judge Johnson has written that that plan would preserve racial separation in the county.