(Wyoming News Service) Advocates for Wyoming's Latino communities welcomed the latest voter redistricting maps advanced last week.
The 62-31 plan, which is expected to be presented to lawmakers in the upcoming session, would add three new state legislative districts, two for the House and one for the Senate.
Antonio Serrano, chairman and co-founder of the group Juntos, said more Latinos are building homes, businesses and raising families in south Cheyenne, and they want to have a say in how things run.
"Like everyone else does," Serrano explained. "And when they were proposing the I-80 compromise, which thankfully it didn't pass, what was at risk was taking away any power that community had to have a say in how we live in this community."
Serrano and others worried the I-80 compromise draft map would in effect allow politicians to pick their voters, rather than letting community residents choose their representatives, by separating south Cheyenne's communities of color into different districts. Federal law prohibits states from discrimination in redistricting on the basis of race or ethnicity. The once-a-decade redistricting process is triggered by new census data, and is meant to ensure districts follow changes in population.
New voter maps can have profound impacts on how federal and state funds are distributed for education, health, veterans and other programs. Serrano argued kids on Cheyenne's south side should have access to the same opportunities other neighborhoods have, and emphasized it is why it is critical to be able to elect people who understand the struggles facing families.
"Our high school here on this side of town has a low graduation rate," Serrano pointed out. "That's not because the kids are just not doing as good. It's because they don't have access to the same resources, to the same help that wealthier schools on the north side have."
After months of back-and-forth negotiations, last week the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee said no new maps would be considered. The 62-31 maps are expected to impact elections for all of Wyoming's legislators. At the local level through school board elections, maps can impact how public schools operate.