Stories about Wyoming

Wyoming is only state so far to change number of state legislators after redistricting

Wyoming enacted new state legislative district boundaries on March 25 when Gov. Mark Gordon (R) allowed the maps to become law without signing them. The bill adds one Senate seat and two House of Representatives seats to the state legislature, meaning that after the 2022 elections, Wyoming will have 31 state Senators and 62 state Representatives. As of April 14, 44 states have completed legislative redistricting after the 2020 census, and Wyoming is the only one thus far to change its number of legislators. 

West Virginia adopted a redistricting plan changing that state’s House of Delegates from 67 to 100 districts but kept the number of legislators at 100. It will go from having 47 single-member and 20 multi-member districts to 100 single-member districts.

Nationwide, there are currently 1,971 state Senators and 5,411 state Representatives. After the 2022 elections, there will be 1,972 state Senators and 5,413 Representatives.

In Wyoming, the state House and Senate passed two separate redistricting proposals and a joint conference committee developed the final boundaries. The state Senate passed the new maps, 17-12, with all votes in favor by Republicans and 10 Republicans and two Democrats voting against. The state House approved the maps by a 44-12 vote. Thirty-seven Republicans, six Democrats, and one Libertarian voted in favor, and 11 Republicans and one independent voted against.

When the proposal to increase the number of legislators was discussed in Wyoming’s Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee, Sen. Tara Nethercott (R) said, “Historically, the Legislature has had even more legislators than this amount. This is not a new concept for us to consider, or particularly profound in that way. The purpose is to identify the greatest amount of concern that we heard and provide solutions, really maximizing solutions to concerns.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, Wyoming changed the number of members of its state legislature five times between 1964 and 1992. During that period, the state House of Representatives had between 56 and 64 members and the state Senate had between 25 and 30 members.

After the 2010 census, New York increased its number of state Senators from 62 to 63. 

After the 2000 census, New York increased the number of state Senators by one, to 62. Two states—North Dakota and Rhode Island—reduced the number of state legislators in both chambers.

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Wyoming enacts new state legislative districts

Wyoming enacted new state legislative districts on March 25 when Gov. Mark Gordon (R) allowed a proposal approved by both legislative chambers to become law without his signature. The maps will take effect for Wyoming’s 2022 state legislative elections.

The Wyoming State Senate passed legislative redistricting plans on March 3, voting 20-10 to approve an amended version of the Joint Corporations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee’s proposal. The House rejected maps approved by the Senate in a 46-11 vote on March 8. Legislative leaders formed a committee of three representatives and three senators to resolve disputes over the proposals. The House passed the maps on March 11 in a 44-12 vote, and the Senate passed the maps in a 17-12 vote. The enacted proposal adds one Senate seat and two House seats to the state legislature.

Gordon said of the new maps, “I feel very comfortable with my neighbors being in the district they’re accustomed to shopping in, going to the feed store, or selling their cattle. So from that perspective I think it was a good solution.” Senate Minority Leader Chris Rothfuss (D) said “we basically ran out of time. It’s kind of like when you’re out of time and you have to submit your homework and here we are. But at the end of the day it isn’t living to the standards and obligations we were supposed to be putting forward.”

As of March 29, 43 states have adopted legislative district maps for both chambers and one state has adopted maps for one legislative chamber. The state supreme court in one state has overturned previously enacted maps, the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked previously enacted maps in one state, and four states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census. As of March 25, 2012, 43 states had enacted legislative redistricting plans after the 2010 census.

Nationwide, states have completed legislative redistricting for 1,772 of 1,972 state Senate seats (89.9%) and 4,654 of 5,411 state House seats (86.0%).

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Wyoming voters to decide ballot measure increasing judicial retirement age to 75

Wyoming voters will decide in November on a constitutional amendment that would increase the judicial retirement age from 70 to 75 for state supreme court justices and district court judges.

As of 2022, 32 states have mandatory retirement ages for state judges. Including Wyoming, 18 states have a mandatory retirement age of 70. Seven have a mandatory retirement age of 75. In 2003, Vermont established the highest mandatory retirement age at 90 years old. The other 18 states do not have mandatory retirement ages.

Since 2016, voters in six states have voted on constitutional amendments to increase or eliminate the judicial retirement age. Two of the constitutional amendments were approved. Both of them, like the Wyoming amendment, proposed increasing the judicial retirement age from 70 to 75. The other four were rejected. Two proposed increasing the age from 70 to 80 and two proposed eliminating the judicial retirement age.

In Wyoming, a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the Wyoming State Legislature during one legislative session. The judicial retirement age amendment was introduced into the state Legislature as House Joint Resolution 1 (HJ 1). The Wyoming House of Representatives voted 54 to 5 to approve HJ1 on Feb. 24, 2022. All seven Democratic representatives voted in favor. Of the 51 Republican representatives, 45 voted in favor, five voted against, and one was absent. The one Independent representative and one Libertarian representative both voted in favor. The State Senate passed the measure in a vote of 20-30 on March 3, 2022. Both Democratic senators voted in favor. Among the 28 Republican senators, 18 voted in favor and 10 voted against.

As of March 3, the Wyoming State Legislature has referred one other constitutional amendment – Amendment A – the ballot. Amendment A would allow the legislature to provide by law for local governments (county, city, township, town, school district, or other political subdivision) to invest funds in stocks and equities. The legislature may refer additional measures to the ballot during the 2022 legislative session, which is set to run until March 11, 2022. Two constitutional amendments concerning the state budget have passed the state House of Representatives and would be placed on the ballot if approved by the state Senate. One of the amendments would require that earnings from the Permanent Fund are deposited into an earnings account and requires that investment losses are addressed. The other potential amendment would create a separate earnings fund for earnings from the school account of the permanent land fund, allow the legislature to distribute or invest the earnings fund, and require the legislature to provide a process for supplying school fund investment losses.

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Redistricting timeline update: West Virginia calls special session, Wyoming committee agrees on timeline

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting updates from West Virginia and Wyoming.

West Virginia: On Oct. 7, 2021, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R) called for a special session starting Oct. 11 for the legislature to finish the redistricting process and approve legislative and congressional district maps. “This is on all the redistricting we have to do. We’ve got to do this and everything. The special session is part of the Legislature’s constitutional duty to redistrict the state of West Virginia,” Justice said.

Wyoming: At an Oct. 6, 2021, meeting, the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Election and Political Subdivisions committee agreed on a schedule to finish the redistricting process. The committee set Nov. 1, 2021, as the deadline for map proposals. Redistricting legislation proposals must be finished by Dec. 1, 2021, so they can be reviewed before the 2022 budget session begins on Feb. 14. The committee plans to meet again in early November to go over any remaining issues with the map drafts, but has not set a date yet.

First 2022 state supreme court vacancy announced

Wyoming State Supreme Court Justice Michael K. Davis is retiring on Jan. 16, 2022, upon reaching the state court’s mandatory retirement age of 70 years. The vacancy created by Davis’ retirement is the first state supreme court vacancy to be announced for 2022. Davis’ replacement will be Governor Mark Gordon’s (R) first nominee to the five-member supreme court.

Under Wyoming law, justices of the Wyoming Supreme Court are selected through the assisted appointment method. When a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement from a list of three names provided by a nominating commission. Newly appointed judges serve for at least one year, after which they must stand for retention in the next general election. If retained, a judge will finish the remainder of his or her predecessor’s unexpired term. Subsequent terms last eight years.

Davis first became a member of the Wyoming Supreme Court when he was appointed by Gov. Matt Mead (R) on Aug. 30, 2012, to succeed Michael Golden. Davis previously served as a judge on the First District Court in Laramie County, Wyoming. From 1980 to 2008, he was a partner at Yonkee and Toner. He has also been a judicial fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Following Davis’ retirement, the Wyoming Supreme Court will include the following members:

  1. Lynne Boomgaarden, appointed by Gov. Matt Mead (R) in 2017
  2. Kate M. Fox, appointed by Mead (R) in 2013
  3. Keith G. Kautz, appointed by Mead (R) in 2015
  4. Kari Gray, appointed by Mead (R) in 2018

In 2021, there have been 16 court vacancies in 14 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected, as of Sept. 8. The vacancies have been caused by retirements.

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Wyoming to vote in 2022 to allow local governments to invest in stocks and equities

On April 1, the Wyoming State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would allow the legislature to provide by law for local governments (county, city, township, town, school district, or other political subdivision) to invest funds in stocks and equities. Legislation establishing or increasing the percentage of funds a local government could invest would require a two-thirds supermajority vote of the state legislature. Currently, the state constitution allows the state legislature to authorize certain state funds to be invested in stocks.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the Wyoming State Senate and the Wyoming House of Representatives.

The measure was introduced as House Joint Resolution 9 on March 4, 2021. It was approved in the House on March 23, 2021, by a vote of 43-16. The Senate approved an amended version of the measure on April 1, 2021, in a vote of 25-5, which was sent to the House for concurrence. The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments on April 1, 2021, in a vote of 46-13.

Between 2000 and 2020, the Wyoming State Legislature referred 20 constitutional amendments to the ballot, of which, 12 were approved (60%) and eight (40%) were defeated.

The legislature was set to adjourn the 2021 legislative session on April 7, 2021. The legislature can also refer measures to the 2022 ballot during the 2022 legislative session.

As of April 2, 2021, 15 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2022 ballot in 10 states.

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Wyoming becomes 38th state with an active mask requirement

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) issued an order, effective December 9, requiring face coverings in all businesses open to the public, on public transportation, at medical facilities (like hospitals, doctors offices, and veterinary clinics), and in non-federal government buildings. The order is scheduled to expire on Jan. 8. 

Thirty-eight states have active statewide orders requiring individuals to wear masks in indoor or outdoor public spaces. All 24 states with a Democratic governor have statewide mask orders, while 14 out of 26 Republican states require face coverings.

States issued mask requirements mask requirements in the following months:

  • One new order has been issued in December.
  • Four orders were first issued in November.
  • Three orders were first issued in August.
  • 13 orders were first issued in July.
  • Four orders were first issued in June.
  • Six orders were first issued in May.
  • Eight orders were first issued in April.

Mississippi is the only state that has allowed a statewide mask requirement to expire. The statewide order lasted August 5 through September 30 and was replaced by a regional face-covering order.

Wyoming amendment concerning municipal debt for sewage systems fails

The Wyoming State Legislature referred Constitutional Amendment A to the November 2020 ballot. The measure was designed to remove the constitutional limit on debt a municipality could incur for municipal sewer projects. Going into the election, the limit on total debt for municipal projects was 4% of the assessed value of the taxable property within the municipality. The constitution allows for an additional 4% for municipal sewer projects. The measure would have removed the additional limit of 4% for sewer projects and instead allowed the legislature to provide for additional indebtedness.

This measure failed since it required approval from a majority of voters casting a ballot at the election, which means leaving Amendment A blank was the equivalent of voting against it. Of the total ballots cast, 11.17% of voters either left Amendment A blank or filled in both “for” and “against.”

  • Total ballots cast at the election – 278,503 (100%)
  • Total votes for Amendment A – 126,589 (45.45%)
  • Total votes against Amendment A – 120,808 (43.38%)
  • Undervotes and overvotes on Amendment A – 31,106 (11.17%)

From 1996 through 2018, the Wyoming State Legislature referred 26 constitutional amendments to the ballot. Voters approved 18 and rejected eight of the referred amendments. Four of the eight rejected measures were defeated despite receiving more yes votes than no votes. They failed for the same reason Amendment A (2020) failed. All of the amendments were referred to the ballot for general elections during even-numbered election years. The average number of amendments appearing on the general election ballot was two. The approval rate at the ballot box was 69.23% during the 22-year period from 1996 through 2018. The rejection rate was 30.77%.

Five other states besides Wyoming have this type of requirement based on election turnout instead of votes cast on the measure itself. Four require constitutional amendments to be approved by a majority of all voters at the election, and one requires approval from a number equal to a majority of all voters casting a ballot for governor. Three other states have provisions that require approval from a certain percentage, ranging from 30% to 40%, of all voters at the election. Provisions like these mean that a certain number of undervotes on an amendment could prevent the measure from passing despite approval from a majority of votes cast on the measure itself.

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Wyoming Rep. Edwards dies one day before the general election

Wyoming lawmaker Roy Edwards (R), who represented House District 53, passed away on Nov. 2, 2020—one day before the general election—of an unspecified illness. According to the Gillette News Record, Edwards was admitted to the hospital last week with the unspecified condition. He was 66-years-old.

Edwards didn’t face any challengers in his re-election bid and was expected to win. During the Aug. 18 primary, Edwards won 57.5% of the vote against challenger Tom Murphy. In accordance with Wyoming statute, the Campbell County Republican Party will recommend three replacements for the vacancy no later than Nov. 18.

District 53 had been represented by Edwards since 2015 after then-incumbent Gregg Blikre (R) didn’t seek re-election. The passing of Edwards represents the only current vacancy in the Wyoming House of Representatives.

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Two Wyoming Supreme Court justices seek retention in November

Wyoming Supreme Court Justices Lynne Boomgaarden and Kari Gray are standing for retention election on November 3, 2020. Both Boomgaarden and Gray were appointed by former Wyoming Governor Matt Mead (R).

Mead appointed all five of the justices currently on the court.

The governor appoints the five justices of the Wyoming Supreme Court with the assistance of a judicial nominating commission where neither the governor nor the Wyoming State Bar Association has majority control. The Wyoming Judicial Nominating Commission is made up of seven members: three lawyers (elected from the active membership of the Wyoming State Bar), three non-lawyer members (appointed by the governor), and is chaired by the chief justice of the supreme court.

New justices must face a retention election during the next general election after they serve at least one year on the bench. Justices then stand for retention every eight years. Since 2008, justices facing retention elections have won 98% of the time. In Wyoming, there has not been a single justice that lost retention during this same time frame.

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