"Four and a half years after a lawsuit was filed, and three weeks after a federal judge was pressed to make a decision, his order to Fremont County to create single-member districts should lead to fairer representation for voters on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson may have taken a long time to make a decision, but he didn't mince words in his ruling. "The long history of discrimination against Indians in the United States, Wyoming, and Fremont County is undeniable," he wrote. "The court rejects any attempt to characterize this discrimination as being politically, rather than racially, motivated."
While Indians were finally officially recognized by the federal government as U.S. citizens in 1924, it took until 2006 -- a year after the lawsuit was filed by five Indian voters and the American Civil Liberties Union -- for an Indian to be elected to the Fremont County Commission. While Indians had the right to vote, local governments in Wyoming and the West historically blocked their use of the franchise through literacy tests -- much the same as blacks were kept from voting in the South for generations until passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Until Johnson's ruling, Fremont County commissioners were elected at large and could live anywhere in the county. Johnson ordered the county to submit a voting plan by June 30 that would create single-member districts. The five commissioners elected would each represent the residents of a specific geographic area. The same process is used in elections for members of the Wyoming House and Senate."
Get the Story:
Editorial: Ruling will help Indians be part of process
(The Casper Star-Tribune 5/2)
Large v. Fremont County
Indians win voting rights lawsuit
(The Casper Star-Tribune 4/30)